Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes believes that the best way to avoid stress and put his mind at rest is by becoming the only Irish boxer in the 104-year history of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association to qualify for three successive Olympics.
But Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov last night ensured that the Barnes’ last World Series of Boxing (WSB) fight in the early hours of Sunday morning in Venezuela will be anything but stress free.
Dusmatov edged ahead of Barnes in the race for the Rio Olympics in Kiev on Friday.
Boxing for the Ukraine Otamans, the Uzbek beat Russia’s Belik Galanov on a unanimous decision in his last fight of the regular WSB season to move three points clear of the two-time Irish Olympian at the top of the light-fly table.
The number one ranked light-fly at the end of the regular season will qualify for Rio. However, Barnes can regain top spot and qualify for the 2016 Games if he wins in Venezuela.
The Belfast orthodox meets Finol Rivas of Venezuela over five, three minutes rounds in his final outing and reckons it's his biggest fight since the 2014 Commonwealth Games final.
“Hopefully, I’ll get the victory and get a bit of a break. If I don’t qualify now it will be a very stressful year, qualifying will put my mind at rest,” said Barnes, who has won six from six for Italia Thunder this season.
“Saturday’s fight is probably my biggest since the Commonwealth Games. I’ve trained hard and I’ve been in good form for the whole tournament.
“I’m still improving, I know for a fact that I will have improved by next year. If I get to the Olympics I’ll be going for the gold medal.”
Rivas has won four from five this season and has not dropped a single round in his last three contests.
Michael Conlan, who is in fourth spot n the bantam tables, lines out for Italia Thunder versus Jose Diaz-Azocar in Maiquetía. The top two bantams qualify for Rio.
Russia's Vladimir Nikitin qualified for Rio 2016 after beating Omurbek Malabekov of the Ukraine last night. Conlan now needs to win in Venezuela and hope that Azerbaijan's Magomed Gurbanov loses away to Puerto Rico tonight.
If Gurbanov wins he will take the second and last remaining ticket for the 31st Olympiad, and Conlan, even with a victory over Diaz-Azocar, will be edged out.
Billy Walsh and John Conlan, Michael's father, will be working the Irish corners in Venezuela.