The Irish Amateur Boxing Association is facing a crisis to keep its best boxers for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Double bronze medallist Paddy Barnes yesterday announced his plans to turn professional on the same weekend that world championship gold medallist Jason Quigley admitted turning pro is a bigger ambition than winning a medal at the Olympics.
Katie Taylor threatened to turn her back on the amateur code because of the IABA’s inability to attract crowds in September. Barnes became the first high-profile boxer from this generation to signal his intention to make the move and blamed the IABA’s inability to fill venues for their bouts.
“Yeah [it’s crossed my mind] a few times when I’ve watched my friend fight, Carl Frampton,” he said on RTÉ’s Sunday Sport programme.
“He seems to be doing very well for himself and when Carl Frampton fights he fights in front of 9,000 people. When Paddy Barnes fights, he fights in front of 100 people, that’s my main concern.
“I’d rather be fighting in front of big crowds where people appreciate you more than fight in the National Stadium in front of 100 people.
“I’m used to fighting in front of small crowds but fighting in two Olympic Games, where the big crowds are, you get a feel for it and you always want to fight in front of big crowds and that’s all I want to do. I want to showcase my skills in front of a wider audience and professional boxing would probably be best for that.
“If a promoter came to me with a contract I’d be well on. 100%.”
However, Barnes did acknowledge the funding of the IABA and Irish Sports Council (ISC), which helped him win two Olympic medals, but admitted the intention to turn pro was based on his own financial security for the future.
“I’m thinking for my own career, my own life — I’ve actually a kid on the way — and it’s my job. I’ve no education because I chose to box so I’m out now to make as much money as I can and try secure my future.
“I’m well funded off the ISC and they’ve been really good to me but nothing’s guaranteed. After every year your funding is reviewed and if you’re not performing well it could be cut, so I’m just looking long term.”
But when the conversation turned to the IABA’s work on promoting amateur boxing in Ireland he grew annoyed.
“I thought by winning another medal in London my profile would be raised higher, but I’m still the same person as I was in Beijing, the same people know me. The way the IABA is pushing boxing, it’s not good enough.
“I don’t know if it’s because the ISC isn’t giving the IABA enough money but I feel the IABA is not letting the wider public know when fights are on, about who we are, what we do and what kind of training we do.
“We need something in place to try and sort that out or amateur boxing is going to take another step backwards.”
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