Barnes not pulling any punches
Straight-talking and supremely confident, Paddy Barnes is ready to take these Olympic Games in his stride, writes JOHNNY WATTERSON
PADDY BARNES walked out of the arena in Turkey last April glaring at the judges. It was not difficult to see clearly what he was doing despite wearing boxing gloves. The light flyweight from Belfast was defiantly making a crude gesture with his right hand right in front of the three men sitting behind a table to the side of one of the rings.
No fear, Barnes was eyeballing the trio of officials, who he had to walk past towards the exit, Irish team head coach Billy Walsh dutifully marching side by side with him.
It wasn’t in Barnes’ nature to walk away from Trabzon without the judges knowing precisely what he thought of them, which was they were, all of them, w***ers.
Joe Ward may have had more to gripe about over referee decisions on that trip but if Barnes has shown that if he is not diplomatic, captain material, he does represent the honest heart of this Irish boxing team. He was the only one to make the comment but everyone agreed with him.
Don’t step back. Don’t accept anything. Don’t show weakness. Don’t think you are any worse than the man in front of you in the ring.
Firebrand Barnes is the conscious, indiscreet and occasionally feral element in this Irish boxing team. He says the things the other boxers might think and then takes it a little further.
He followed up his hand gesture with a vitriolic attack on the refereeing that was so defamatory it could not be printed. Everyone agreed with him again. He was not sanctioned. He was not told to shut up.
“Yeah, I let the referees know I’m not just going to lay there and let them get away with stuff like that,” he says unapologetically. “But it’s in the past and I’ve qualified so I’m not really worried . . . London is a bigger stage than Turkey. The judges are fair. They usually are. Everybody get a decent crack of the whip.
“You can’t be thinking anything like that there (mysterious referee decisions). You have to go in and do your best. Hopefully my best is good enough to beat anybody and I believe it is.”
In the past Barnes was given a room of his own as he constantly fought to make the 49 kilo light flyweight limit. Because of his moody temperament they had to isolate him from the rest of the team. Barnes volunteered the information himself and wore it almost like a badge of honour, that if he was testy it was as a by-product of him doing what he does. With boxing being what it is – a sport where the athletes are given some latitude for expression – that wasn’t a problem.
“I’ll make the weight easily,” he says now. “Even in Turkey I was a kilo under every single night so . . . I was given my own room okay but really I didn’t need it. My diet and my training has improved . . . and my attitude.