By Brian Donnellon
After a highly controversial Olympic Games for Irish boxers, two of the most recognisable names in the Irish amateurs, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan have made the first strides towards the glitz and glamour of professional boxing by putting pen to paper with Matthew Macklin’s gym (MGM) and Manny Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum respectively.
While the Olympics was the first time that professionals were able to box in the Games, it was very telling that so few pros put their names forward, and the ones that did were shown not to be up to the demands of three round boxing.
Moving into the pro ranks can prove difficult for some of the best amateurs and the “champion rounds” are a foreign concept to most. For Conlan and Barnes though, the transition should be smoother as they have boxed in the WSB which is almost a semi-pro rank. Longer rounds, without headgear, have both well prepped.
Barnes failed to follow up two Olympic bronze medals with a third medal; struggling to make weight was his biggest issue and now in the Pro ranks he will have the freedom to move weights without disrupting fellow teammates, and he has already stated that he wants to move up through numerous weights in his pro career. Conlan’s story from the Olympics is well documented, a highly controversial (and in my humble opinion a wrong) decision in his fight versus the Russian Vladimir Nikitin prompted a lash out from Conlan stating that ‘AIBA are cheating B*******, amateur boxing stinks from the core to the top’. He vowed to never fight in the amateurs again and stayed true to his word.
With both boxers crossing the Atlantic to make America their home for this new chapter, the confidence of both boxers in their own abilities is evident, with both believing they will be world champions in the next few years. Current World Champion Carl Frampton, a close friend of Barnes and Conlan, has welcomed them to the Pro ranks and it should be an exciting time for Boxing fans from Northern Ireland; to have three boxers of this calibre at the same time has generated a buzz within the boxing community.
As for the IABA, the Olympics was a disaster, the lack of medals makes the decision to let Billy Walsh leave and join the American team a shortsighted move and now they have lost two of their main figures, along with former world youth champion Ray Moylette of Westport to the pro ranks. There is a rebuilding process needed. Confidence will be low but it provides opportunity for the likes of Brendan Irvine to step up and become a major player for Irish boxing