Michael Conlan follows Paddy Barnes into professional ranks

Two of Ireland’s Olympic boxers have joined the professional game after Michael Conlan last night followed countryman Paddy Barnes into the paid ranks.

Conlan last night confirmed he is joining Top Rank, the promotion giant behind some of boxing’s biggest stars including Manny Pacquiao.

2015 world champion Conlan was one of Ireland’s biggest hopes of medalling in Rio at the Olympics but he went out of the competition in controversial circumstances, and vowed to never fight as an amateur again.

Meanwhile Paddy Barnes is confident his new managerial team can deliver his goal of fighting for a world title — and the Belfast native reckons he could compete for a European title within three or four paid bouts.

The three-time Olympian yesterday confirmed that he has signed a management contract with Matthew Macklin’s Gym Marbella (MGM) ahead of his move into the pro ranks.

Barnes looks likely to have his first pro fight in November and the Ardoyne man has stated that he wants to fast-track his way through the paid game by booking a world-title shot sooner rather than later.

“I definitely think MGM can help me do that, they done it for Charlie Edwards so I don’t see why they can’t do it with me,” said Barnes of his goal to win a world belt within 10 pro fights.

MGM-managed English flyweight Edwards recently competed for the IBF world flyweight title in only his ninth pro fight, losing out to champion John Riel Casimero.

“With my WSB record and all, I’ll be fast-tracked,” continued two-time Olympic medallist Barnes, referring to his experience in the World Series of Boxing semi-pro style competition where bouts are held over five rounds.

“For me, personally, I want to bypass Irish, British, and Commonwealth titles and go straight to fighting for the European title. I think I could get a European [pro] title shot after three or four fights maybe,” added Barnes, who is a former European amateur champion.

While Barnes has signed a management deal with MGM, he has yet to reveal his promotional arrangements, although he looks likely to make his debut on a November 5 show at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.

The 29-year-old will not train in Spain as MGM will only act as his management team.

“No, I’ll not be going to Spain,” said Barnes, who is set to return to training this week ahead of his debut. “They [MGM] have brilliant facilities but I just don’t want to train out there in Spain. I’ll be training in Belfast for my fight [his debut] in Belfast, but after that I’ll go over to England, train with a few trainers and see who I like.

“Gerry will be helping me out,” added Barnes, referring to legendary coach Gerry Storey, who runs the Holy Family club in Belfast.

Macklin’s Spanish-based gym is home to a number of fighters, including Commonwealth super-flyweight Jamie Conlan, brother of world amateur champion Michael and a friend of Barnes.

Founded by former European champion Macklin, the gym’s management team have pursued Barnes’ signature for over a year and the thee-time Olympian was yesterday unveiled as a new recruit.

MGM’s promotional efforts in Ireland were derailed by a shooting at a pre-fight weigh-in Dublin last February, although the gym’s management team have continued to sign up Irish and UK talent in recent months.

The gym’s premises were raided by Spanish police last week, but details have yet to be revealed about the investigation. Neither Barnes nor Macklin are involved in crime. Barnes has already indicated that he is keen to move up in weight following his disappointment at the recent Rio Olympics.

The 29-year-old suffered a shock defeat in his opening-round bout against Spaniard Samuel Carmona Heredia after struggling to make the light-flyweight (49kg/108lbs) limit.

Barnes intends to fight at flyweight as a pro, which is capped at 112lbs, while he Ardoyne native looks likely to make his debut on a November 5 bill headlined by Jamie Conlan in Belfast.

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