Tuesday 27 September 2016

Comment: Would this have happened under Billy Walsh?

Sean McGoldrick in Rio

Published 08/08/2016 | 20:35

paddy Barnes of Ireland looks on as Samuel Carmona Heredia of Spain is declared victorious
paddy Barnes of Ireland looks on as Samuel Carmona Heredia of Spain is declared victorious

As everybody knows hindsight is 20/20 vision. Paddy Barnes' natural weight is closer to 60kg than 50kg. Making the 49kg weight limit required for the light flyweight division was nothing short of cruel particularly as he got older.

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It's hardly surprisingly that Barnes (29) lists former champion jockey AP McCoy as one of his heroes. One suspects the two could share war stories about he vagaries of living below their natural weight for more than a decade.

It's as much a psychological as a physical challenge. Furthermore, shedding weight prior to a weigh-in – which is mandatory before every fight - is a debilitating and strength sapping experience. The first thing Barnes did every morning when he woke up was to step on a weighing scales.

Barnes has built his career on his all-energy action style but this was pointedly absent at the business end of today's contest.

Paddy Barnes of Ireland after being defeated by Samuel Carmona Heredia
Paddy Barnes of Ireland after being defeated by Samuel Carmona Heredia

The whole management of Barnes' preparations for the Rio Olympics will now inevitably come under scrutiny and, yet again, one has to pose the question as to whether all this would have happened if Billy Walsh was still in charge of the High Performance programme.

For a variety of reasons this was Barnes' first championship fight in the light flyweight category for more than 15 months – which in boxing terms is a long, long time not having to make the weight.

At face value it looked a straight forward assignment for Barnes whose only two defeats at Olympic level were against the eventual gold medallist, Zou Sliming from China at the Beijing and London Games.

Barnes had to be slightly ring rusty given his long absence from the ring. He qualified for the Rio Games by securing the World Series of Boxing 49kg title with a seventh successive win in the Venezuelan port city of Maiquetia in April 2015.

8 August 2016; Paddy Barnes of Ireland, left, in action against Samuel Carmona Heredia of Spain during their Light-Flyweight preliminary round of 32 bout in the Riocentro Pavillion 6 Arena during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
8 August 2016; Paddy Barnes of Ireland, left, in action against Samuel Carmona Heredia of Spain during their Light-Flyweight preliminary round of 32 bout in the Riocentro Pavillion 6 Arena during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

He took a long break from the ring afterwards – initially to have surgery on his hand. Then he was obliged to bide his time as Brendan Irvine won a silver medal in the 49kg category at the European Games in Baku last summer which earned him a shot at qualifying for the Rio Olympics as a light fly.

As it transpired Irvine was beaten in the quarter finals in Doha and ultimately qualified in the flyweight category.

Although it would have been a big gamble, in hindsight perhaps Barnes should have given up his Olympic spot in the 49kg and attempted to qualify as a flyweight with Irvine – who is only 20 – staying in the lighter category.

Significantly, Barnes' last competitive fight, which took place in May, was in the flyweight category at the Socikas Invitational tournament in Kaunas in Lithuania where, ironically he beat two Spaniards on his way to winning the gold medal at the tournament. But the Spanish had the last word today!

But what happened in Pavilion 6 is the oldest story in boxing – a young pretender takes the scalp of a fading champion.

The 20-year-old Spaniard has already a win under his belt in Rio – a unanimous 3-0 decision over an Armenian fighter at the opening session on Saturday.

Despite his age, Carmona was not short of championship experience having competed at both the European championships and World championships last year, finishing 5th and 9th respectively.

Interestingly he was beaten by the eventual world champion, Cuban Yoahnys Argilago in Doha in the latter event. The Cuban then beat Barnes' team mate Brendan Irvine in the next round.

Carmona secured his place in Rio at the final qualifying tournament in Buku in June, beating India's Devendor Singh Laishram in the semi-final. He conceded a walk over in the final. Barnes beat the Indian light fly at the London Olympics four years ago in the bronze medal fight. But time waits for no man or boxer.

As well as ending his ambitions of becoming the first Irish Olympian to win medals at three successive Games, this defeat may have implications for Barnes' continued funding from the HPU.

His career is definitely at a crossroad but as he said himself afterwards he will never box again in the 49kg fly lightweight category.

His defeat coupled with the probable expulsion of Michael O'Reilly from the Games means that Ireland has lost two of their primary medal prospects in the ring and the tournament is only warming up.

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