While many star boxers fall over each other to offer sanctimonious proclamations that the much-hyped meeting of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Conor McGregor is a nail in the sport’s coffin, three-time Olympian Paddy Barnes takes a different view.
Heading into his third paid bout in his native city this weekend, the Belfast man recognises the reality that pro boxing is a much a business as a sport.
When asked which circus he would prefer to be involved in - the August 26 ‘May-Mac’ Las Vegas bill or the latest another on-going row in Irish amateur boxing circles – the two-time Olympic medallist did not need much time to think about his answer.
“I definitely prefer professional boxing,” said Barnes. “It’s a bigger showcase, it’s entertainment.
“People recognise you more and it’s a bigger platform,” added the three-time Olympian, who admitted that he would even pick a big-money undercard slot on the May-Mac bill ahead of a world-title shot if he had to choose between two dream scenarios.
“One hundred per cent I’d go for the McGregor undercard, 100 per cent,” said the 30-year-old.
“If I got an undercard slot, I’d be 100 per cent made.
“It’s a brilliant business move [by Mayweather and McGregor]. [Critics like] Oscar De La Hoya is jealous because he isn’t getting a cut of the money.
“I’m jealous as well because I won’t be involved!
“People are saying it’s bad for boxing, but people have to remember it’s only happening because of the demand and people want to see it,” added the former European champion. The forthright flyweight was even more vocal when revealing where his allegiances will lie for the so-called ‘biggest fight of the year’.
“I’d be stupid if I thought McGregor was going to win, but I hope he does… I hope he kicks him [Mayweather] in the head in the last round, it’d be nice to see Mayweather’s head split open,” joked Barnes.
“I just don’t like him [Mayweather] and the way he goes on and his demeanour… I think he’s an a******e!”
Barnes fights for his first pro title tomorrow night at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall in just his third paid contest. The 30-year-old takes on Madrid-based Romanian Silvio Oltenau for the vacant WBO European flyweight belt – a stepping-stone title, which more importantly ensures a world ranking for the winner.
Sporting a 16-11-1 record, 39-year-old veteran Olteanu previously held the traditional version of the European title, while he has also challenged for world honours, so he will offer a relatively challenging test at such an early stage for the home fighter.
“I could be sitting here [undefeated] 10-0 next years after fighting eejits,” said Barnes. “But I’m 30 now and I need to jump in the deep end and I believe that I’m good enough,” “As an amateur I created history for Ireland and hopefully I can do that as a professional as well,” added the three-time Olympian, who hopes to work his way towards an early world-title shot.
A solid undercard contains Dubliners Stephen Ormond and Jono Carroll in title bouts, while Rio Olympian David Oliver Joyce makes his professional debut on the BoxNation TV bill.
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