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Paddy Barnes: It's the end of an era after losing Billy - now we need to hang on to Zaur

The two-time Olympic medallist weighs in on Ireland’s coaching controversy.

Walsh, left, and Antia, right, combined to help Barnes win his Olympic medals.
Walsh, left, and Antia, right, combined to help Barnes win his Olympic medals.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LOSING BILLY WALSH will mark the end of an era in Irish boxing, two-time Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes said.

The stand-off between Ireland’s top coach and boxing bosses came to a disastrous end yesterday as Walsh resigned his position and blamed the IABA for forcing his hand.

“It’s obviously a big loss to Irish boxing,” Barnes said.

“Myself and Billy have been on the team together for years so it will be a loss to me personally because we’ve had a working relationship for so long.

“It’ll take a while for someone else to come in and fill that void.”

Walsh is now set to move to America where he has agreed terms to lead the US women’s boxing team into next summer’s Olympic Games.

While the IABA said last night that it had ‘done its utmost’ to retain Walsh, a statement from Sport Ireland indicated that the split did not boil down to finance alone and instead centred on ‘the non-financial aspects of the contract.’

Backed up by his right-hand man, Zaur Antia, he presided over a period of unprecedented success which included no fewer than seven Olympic medals.

“I’m not surprised or shocked,” Barnes said. “I just feel nothing – I’m not cold or anything.

If someone wants to move somewhere for more money or a better life, you have to applaud them and say fair play for taking the step.

He added: “The way I see it, Zaur is the best technical coach you could ever see. He’d be developing boxers.

“But Billy would lead them in the right direction and plan tournaments and when to fight. He’d pick out when to fight so he’s good.

“He’s a brilliant performance planner and performance manager and I think that’s what Billy wanted to be in the IABA.

But he wasn’t, he was the head coach, and that’s probably why he left – because they wouldn’t give him it.

“Love him or hate him, it’s the end of an era, definitely,” he agreed.

Electric Ireland Smarter Living Sponsorship to Energise Team Ireland for Rio 2016 Barnes was speaking yesterday at the announcement that Electric Ireland will sponsor the 2016 Irish Olympic team. Source: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

The IABA promised a further announcement over the coming days concerning their succession plans for the high performance unit.

Barnes believes there are plenty of top coaches capable of developing the young talent including John Conlon, father of new world champion Michael, and the irreplaceable Antia.

“I’’ve been around the world, seen loads of teams training, and (Zaur) is the number one man.

Zaur just brings it to a new level of technique. Years ago, watch Irish boxing and we’’d just go in with a big heart. Now we’’re technical, feigning and all.

“It’’s all because of Zaur. He’’s taught us how to fight, and fight properly.

“He’’s developed everyone on the team.”

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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