‘He’s never done 12 rounds.’
‘He hasn’t fought anyone in the pros.’
‘He only looked good in his last fight.’
‘It’s too soon.’
Paddy Barnes [5(1)-0] has heard it all in the build up to his potentially record-breaking world title fight tomorrow night in Belfast.
In just his sixth fight the Cliftonville flyweight will challenge WBC champion Cristofer Rosales [27(18)-3(0)] at Windsor Park.
An underdog with the bookies, most agree Barnes faces a monumental task, and many think it could indeed be ‘too soon’ for the Irish amateur legend.
Barnes, unsurprisingly, takes a different view ahead of his clash with a bigger and younger opponent.
While 23-year-old Rosales does have many advantages over Barnes, the Irishman feels the experience and readiness factor is one that is being overplayed.
“Rosales is a very good champion but I’m a 31-year-old triple Olympian who’s been boxing for 20 years. If I’m not ready now, when will I be ready?” he asked before referencing his often forgotten about career in the World Series of Boxing.
“People have to remember that I also had eight ‘five-round’ fights with small gloves and no vest or headguard in the WSB where I’d be fighting the national champion every time.”
“Let’s be truthful, there’s no such thing as ‘amateur boxing’ at elite level, any more. The Olympics and WSB involve full-time paid professional athletes and the standard is extremely high. Some of the cream from the old communist countries will never go professional but they were fully matured men; among the very best fighters for their weight on the planet.”
Disregarding some of the talk around his title tilt, Barnes continued: “everyone warns Cristofer’s got 18 knockouts but I could fight 18 bums and get 18 kayos. That won’t be an issue. I was never dropped or stopped in over 300 amateur fights.”
“I know I’m the underdog but what do the bookies know? They had me down to win the Olympic gold medal!”
“I win because my skills and knowledge are superior to Rosales. He may be more experienced but I’m the better fighter. I intend to steal the show. I’m Paddy Barnes and I always win!”
31 now and, along with a day before weigh-in, up almost four pounds from his amateur class, Barnes feels he’s in the shape of his career.
With this fight falling under the jurisdiction of the WBC, Barnes also had to undergo checkweights and had to come in at 123.2lbs and 117.6lbs 30 and 7 days out respectively before hitting the scales bang on the 112lbs flyweight limit this afternoon and looking strong in the process.
It was all the result of a phenomenally long period of training and Barnes described how “basically, I’ve been in camp since January because I was scheduled to have fights in March, then June.”
“I’ve been solid on this for 10 weeks, spending time at gyms in Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, Dubai as well as Belfast. And I have the luxury of training alongside some of my very best friends such as Tyrone McKenna and Sean McComb which makes prepping really enjoyable. Everything has gone extremely well.”
“Flyweight is my optimal division now and I’m very, very strong at 8st. Taller opponents are generally better for me because there’s no one my size in Ireland or the UK suitable to spar with so it’s the norm to spar taller, heavier men.”
Barnes will likely have to dig deep against Rosales.
Like his last opponent, Elicier Quezada, the Nicaraguan is a sparring partner of former pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez and has recovered from previous losses to British fighters Andrew Selby and Kal Yafai – the WBA super fly champion whom Barnes has been sparring with for this fight,.
Last time out, the Central American won the title by defeating an admittedly weight drained Daigo Higa, this coming following another impressive win over EU champ Mohammad Obbadi in Italy.
Analysing the road warrior, Barnes noted how “Rosales doesn’t really capitalise on his height. He’s right in your face.”
“Rosales is very tough and relentless.”
“You can’t take too much from his loss to Selby because Andrew has his own unique style. I took far more from his upset victory over Higa because I’ve a very similar style to Higa but I’m a bit more active.”
“Higa, a huge, huge puncher, was unable to hurt Rosales so I’m expecting a hard 12 rounder.”
While Rosales will be bigger and stronger to Barnes’ smarts and skills, the double Olympic bronze medallist also feels he has one more arrow in the quiver which could tip things in his favour.
“Home advantage is a big bonus,” he admitted.
“A sell-out is expected and I’ve personally sold over 800 tickets. There’s no home crowd like a Belfast home crowd but I’ll keep a lid on it. Having boxed in huge, often hostile arenas around the world, I’m far too experienced and well-schooled to lose focus.”
“Besides, I’m acutely aware what Rosales is capable of doing to me if my concentration wanders.”
“But I hold the advantage here. I’ve competed on much bigger platforms and, the bigger the stage, the better performance I produce. I’m very conscious of giving the paying fans their money’s worth and partaking in a great fight.”