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Too Soon? – Opinion divided on fast-tracked Paddy Barnes following knockout World Title loss

Paddy Barnes jumped into the deep end last night and was eventually pulled under.

The Belfast flyweight took on WBC champ Cristofer Rosales and was stopped to the body in the fourth round at Windsor Park, gut-wrenchingly ending his attempt to become Ireland’s quickest [in terms of number of fights] world champion.

In what was just his sixth professional fight, underdog Barnes was always up against it against the younger, bigger champion. Dragged into a fight early, Barnes was actually enjoying his best spell of the contest before shipping an uppercut to the body in the closing seconds of the fourth and was unable to recover.

Following the stoppage there was much debate – with many crediting Barnes for attempting to make history while a select few were critical.

‘Too soon’ was the line employed – most notably by BT Sport pundit and former heavyweight champ David Haye.

The Londoner argued that there is a very definite difference between pro and amateur boxing and that double Olympic bronze medallist Barnes couldn’t possibly have bridged this gap in his two years since turning pro.

Indeed, Haye claimed that with more pro training, 31-year-old Barnes would have been able to take the soul-sapping Rosales shot which knocked him out

Haye outlined how “there is professional boxing and amateur boxing, amateur boxing is over three rounds and three minutes.”

“It takes years and years of conditioning, sparring and tough fights to become accustomed to the kind of punishment you can receive.”

“Give it two or three years of hard work, and he’ll be able to take that body shot… his body is not toughened and hardened enough for this kind of level.”

“Give it a little while and he’ll come back, but because he is 31, they’ve probably tried to rush him a little bit.”

Some of Barnes’s fellow Irish fighters came to his defence, noting the inability for any boxer to take such a body shot – the solar plexus sweet spot, where Jamie Conlan also saw his world title challenge disintegrate last November.

In terms of the timing of the title tilt, Barnes indeed would have made history had he claimed a pro world title in his sixth fight but accusations that his jump up to world title level was foolish or coming after defeating ‘five binmen’ ring hollow.

The Cliftonville fighter’s pro opposition has been cited but Barnes arguably has enjoyed the toughest matchmaking of any Irish boxer.

Following two wins over journeymen, and not mentioning his WSB experience, ‘The Leprechaun’ went up to ten rounds versus former European champion and World title challenger Silvio Olteanu. He followed this up with a sixth-round win over Juan Hinostroza, who won the Spanish title afterwards and challenged for the European title.

Indeed, in November, Barnes scored a sensational stoppage of Elicier Quezada – admittedly at short notice for the Nicaraguan who just months previously had lost on a split to Rosales and remains one of ‘El Látigo’s’ better wins.

The world champion subsequently won the belt versus Daigo Higa but there are extenuating circumstances to this win with the Japanese wonderkid missing weight badly and he looked to be significantly suffering from the effects of a severe weight cut in the fight.

With Barnes ranked #16 by the WBC, himself and his team no doubt sensed an opportunity against an opponent beaten previously by Andrew Selby and Kal Yafai, and pushed for the fight

A brave attempt which ended in defeat but not disgrace – it was a first loss for Barnes and little more than that. He came up short but sport requires someone to lose.

Would Barnes have fared better with more bouts under his belt? It’s debatable.

Before last night, and indeed perhaps even since, Rosales looked an attractive opportunity for prospective challengers – a travelling world champion with little promotional power, and an asterix beside his greatest win.

Yes, he had power and size, but backing the boxing talents of Barnes to win out on home turf was not a ludicrous call by any means.

The Central American may well go on to have a distinguished reign but, in context, it certainly looked like a risk worth taking in a division that is currently in flux – before last night the four world champions had a grand total of three title defences between them.

There may indeed be changes made in terms of weight and preparations but to suggest that the defeat was the result of a single glaring, hideous miss-step is incorrect.

Paddy Barnes lost, boxers lose.


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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie