Paddy Barnes believes fears surrounding the zika virus are overblown as the two-time Olympic medallist prepares for his third Games in Rio this summer.
Barnes was part of an Irish Elite selection taking part in a Test match against Russian opposition at the National Stadium last night.
Eight Irish boxers have qualified for Rio, but only five were in action yesterday evening, with Barnes, world champion Michael Conlan, Brenan Irvine, Steven Donnelly, and Joe Ward all taking part.
Barnes, who boxed last night despite carrying a chest infection, is fully focused on winning gold in Rio having previously claimed bronze in Beijing and London, and the Belfast light-flyweight insisted the hysteria surrounding zika will not derail his preparations.
The Irish Olympic squad has already been hit by golfers Rory McIlory, Shane Lowry, and Graeme McDowell opting to withdraw their names from selection as the trio all citied concerns over zika.
Barnes, a father of one, is not concerned by such calls. “It hasn’t really entered my head. In Beijing there was all talk about smog and pollution in air and how it could damage your health; then when we went to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi there was meant to be rats and mice and fever and everything, but when we went there it was fine,” said Barnes.
“In London, there was meant to be threats from Islamic terrorists but it never happened. Now in Rio, it’s the zika virus — there’s always something that’s meant to happen in some big event and it always turns out to be fine.”
Despite his chest infection, Barnes showed no real signs of illness or lethargy when taking on Russia’s Vadim Kudryakov last night.
No scores were kept during the evening’s bouts as the Test exhibition is a part of a training camp with the Russian squad, which is set to continue at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown next week.
Lightweight David Oliver Joyce (neck) and middleweight Michael O’Reilly (hand) were excused from duty last night, while Katie Taylor did not feature either, although the Olympic champion was introduced to the crowd along with the rest of the Rio 2016 team
Elsewhere, Mayo light-welterweight Ray Moylette may yet increase Ireland’s Olympic boxing contingent as he competes in the final qualifier in Vargas, Venezuela, which gets under way tomorrow.
The draw for the tournament, only open to professionals and certain boxers who competed in AIBA’s APB and WSB events, takes place today.
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