Barnes with Emmet McElhatton of St. Saviours BC. Youths from the Warrington and Omagh Boys & Girls Club visited Dublin yesterday as part of the Causeway Exchange Programme. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Barnes: Attempts to capitalise on Olympic success were 'embarrassing'

Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes says the IABA let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers after the success of London 2012.

PADDY BARNES SAYS the recent boxing internationals against France were an embarrassment to him and the rest of the Irish team.

The two-time Olympic bronze medalist was due to line out alongside Katie Taylor and his London 2012 team-mates on showpiece cards in Cork and Belfast last May.

The star-studded bills should have been a chance for Irish boxing fans to see the country’s finest in action on home soil.

But high ticket prices and poor promotion meant that tickets failed to sell, forcing the IABA and promoters Platinum One to cancel their original plans.

The events were eventually rescheduled for the much smaller Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork and the National Stadium in Dublin though Taylor did not take part due to an injury.

Ireland scored two impressive wins over the visitors but did so in front of pitifully small crowds, leaving the organisers with plenty of questions to answer.

The failure of the events was in stark contrast to the success of Taylor’s Road to Rio shows, promoted by Brian Peters, which saw the Bray fighter pack out venues in Dublin and Castlebar.

Speaking yesterday, Barnes added to the criticism and said the IABA let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers.

“I think the IABA needs a proper PR team in there. They’re trying to run things themselves and they haven’t got a clue about the business of PR and how to promote themselves properly.

“If you weren’t a boxer or into boxing, you wouldn’t even know the senior championships were on. And then those fights against France in Cork, I was talking to people from Cork and Dublin on Twitter and they hadn’t a clue that it was even on.”

He added: “There should have been a big show in Belfast around October or November and if it was promoted properly it would have drawn a huge crowd.

The show in the Stadium was embarrassing and even the one in Cork was the same. Apart from the officials and family and friends, there were probably only about a hundred people there — and they were really only club boxers — because nobody really knew it was on.

It embarrassed me and it embarrassed the whole team, the fact that we were fighting our comebacks after the Olympics. The wrong people were promoting it. Charging 60 quid for a ticket was crazy, you only get that for a world title fight.

Now 26, Barnes is one of the veterans of the Irish team and the Belfast light-flyweight is not afraid to air his grievances with the boxing hierarchy.

“The boxers are afraid to speak out. They don’t know who to talk to. I’m not afraid to speak up, I’ll speak up on their behalf because if I feel something is wrong I’ll definitely speak out about it.

I told them we weren’t going to fight on that show unless we got paid and I was told that we had to or else our funding would be cut. I said, ‘My funding will not be cut because it’s safe for four years’ and the answer I got was, ‘Nobody is safe.’

Barnes is now weighing up his options and is considering a move to the World Series of Boxing next season. Both himself and Michael Conlan are in negotiations with the Italia Thunder team and while he wants to do whatever is best for his Olympic chances in 2016, he admits that the money on offer will ultimately decide a lot.

“I need to make a better living for myself in it. We’re still in talks and I don’t really know what it’s about. I want to see how much money is being offered and see what my chances are for the next Olympics from it. I just want to better myself.

“Boxing doesn’t pay your bills. Going to fight in the national championships doesn’t pay your mortgage. Either does getting a medal in the Olympics.”

Michael Conlan wants more medals — and revenge — before making Olympic decision

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