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All business for Barnes on his return

Paddy Barnes returns to the ring for the first time on Saturday since his points reverse against Oscar Mojica on St Patrick’s Day in New York
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Emily Harney Paddy Barnes returns to the ring for the first time on Saturday since his points reverse against Oscar Mojica on St Patrick’s Day in New York Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Emily Harney
By David Mohan

PADDY Barnes says he’s back and he means business as the popular North Belfast man looks to get back to winning ways following two straight defeats.

‘The Leprechaun’ came up short in a WBC flyweight challenge to Cristofer Rosales at Windsor Park almost a year ago before suffering a split decision loss in a bizarre fight against Oscar Mojica in New York on St Patrick’s Day.

A potential slot on the Warrington v Frampton undercard in Manchester sandwiched between these reverses failed to materialise despite the Cliftonville man being ready for action in the dressing room to add to a frustrating 12 months.

He admits his lack of activity may have contributed to his woes, but is determined to get back on the winning trail, beginning this Saturday with a six-round contest against Nicaragua’s Joel Sanchez back at his more natural flyweight.

“After the Rosales fight, I was supposed to fight in Manchester. I’m still baffled about what happened there,” he explained.

“I was gloved up and ready to go, but nobody came to tell me if or when I was fighting. It was nearly half 12 (on the Sunday morning) so I thought it was a bit of a joke.

“Look, I’m fighting now and I know I’ll be fighting soon after this again so the rest of the year is looking good.

“There is ESPN and BT Sport here so it really doesn’t get much bigger. I want to put on a performance to let people know that I’m back and that I mean business.”

Barnes had gambled by stepping up to bantamweight for that last outing in New York against Mojica and it quickly turned sour when a stiff jab shattered his nose.

He still fought gamely and enjoyed his moments, but not enough as the Mexican earned a split decision victory that derailed a quick shot at another title.

“It was a crazy fight because he was so much bigger than me,” he reflected.

“Looking back, I probably still would have taken the fight because he wasn’t great. It was just the first punch that changed the whole fight.

“I was given the chance to fight on Paddy’s Day in Madison Square Garden live on ESPN in a prime slot. I was looking to get back in for a title too so I went for it.

“Even thought I didn’t box my best because the nose went, I still seemed to get a lot of credit for it. I had to get back off the canvas (not ruled a knockdown on the night but Barnes was honest in the aftermath to admit a punch had forced him to go down) and weirdly it has helped get me an even bigger fan-base. No joke, I think I got something like 3000 new followers on social media all from Mexico after it who loved it.”

There will be no more risks by fighting much bigger men now as the 32 year-old looks to rebuild and start securing regular action that will help him gradually rise the ranks.

The Rosales fight was an attempt at becoming the quickest-ever Irish winner of a world title and that was another gamble that didn’t come off.

Having had some time to take stock, he has adapted his approach and will fight at flyweight on Saturday before getting down to light-flyweight where he should be much better suited.

“It isn’t even different training, just a different diet,” he explained.

“I have brought a nutritionist on board – Stephen Floyd from Belfast – so we are getting down in weight for this fight and again for the next one.

“Hopefully by next year I will be down to light-flyweight and could even be at it for my next fight in October. This fight will be at eight stone or 51 kilos at flyweight.”

While slight tweaks have been made, the double Olympic medalist continues to train in Glasgow under Danny Vaughan and he says he has enjoyed getting back into camp and putting in the hard work.

The nose injury from St Patrick’s Day has ensured he hasn’t done as much sparring in preparation as normal, but feels in good shape and believes he has put those two defeats in the rear view mirror and is ready to bounce back in fine style at the Falls Park this week.

“I’ve been back in camp and training hard,” he reports.

“I haven’t had much sparring for this because of my nose. I did 12 rounds with Callum Bradley who is also on the bill and I felt good and sharp during that, so I’m looking forward to getting back in and fighting.

“My last two fights have been losses, but I think I have taken too much time off to dwell on the defeats. In the amateurs, you can end up fighting every week so I have the mentality here that I want to get back in there and get back to winning ways.”

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