Paddy Barnes is glad an old friend will not be joining him at Rio Games

Electric Ireland ambassador Paddy Barnes is looking forward to Rio Games
Electric Ireland ambassador Paddy Barnes is looking forward to Rio Games

Paddy Barnes will not miss an old friend when he takes to the ring at the Olympic Games in Rio this summer.

The Belfast fighter will head into his third Olympics looking to get his hands on a gold medal to go with the two bronze medals he already has in his collection.

Barnes went well at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012 but the same man derailed Barnes’ Olympic dream at both Games.

That man was China’s Zou Shiming.

Shiming won gold medals at the Games in 2008 and 2012 and Barnes says he will not miss his old rival.

“To be honest I wish I was in his shoes. He turned professional after the London Games and is now a multi- millionaire and he is - due to the size of the population of China - the most watched boxer on television ever.

“He is a very good fighter but I have been improving all the time and I would fancy my chances against him if he was in Rio.

“But now I am the main man at the weight so they will all have to worry about me.

“I used to think about the draw and what way it went - now, I’m the one people are looking for,” he said.

“I don’t want to watch anybody else because I’m going with the same game-plan in my head.

“People need a game-plan to beat me, I don’t need a game-plan to beat them. I am not worried about anybody else,” he added.

Barnes will be joined in Rio by Ireland team mates Michael Conlan, Steven Donnelly, Joe Ward, Brendan Irvine and David Joyce, while more may join them after the final qualifier later this year.

And Barnes says the world fear the threat that Ireland will bring to the Games.

“We have beaten all the top guns from countries like Cuba and Russia and we are now a force in world boxing.

“Because of the success we have had we have all gained confidence that we can go to these major games and win gold medals.

“We fear n0-one and that is the way it should be. We are all excited about the challenge ahead and we are all determined to win medals.

“I am going to Rio to win gold, anything else would be a major disappointment,” he added.

And Barnes - an ambassador for Electric Ireland - says he is delighted to be leading the Ireland team out at the Games.

“It is a great honour for me and I am delighted to have been asked. There will be millions of people watching from around the world and it is the biggest sporting event in the world.

“I will also have to be better behaved than I was at the London Games opening ceremony as I held a sign asking for sponsors - which did not go down that well.

“Also I will leave all the selfies with famous athletes to Michael Conlan. And anyway they will probable want their photograph with me,” laughed Barnes.

But he wasn’t laughing or smiling when he talked about missing good friend Carl Frampton’s WBA World title showdown with Leo Santa Cruz in New York on July 30.

“I am gutted that I can’t make his fight but I am busy with the Olympics.

“Carl has said that after the Santa Cruz fight he will fly down and cheer me on. And if he does that I will have to win gold.”

And what does Barnes think of Frampton’s chances in New York?

“I think Santa Cruz is made for Carl and I see him stopping him. I just think Carl is too good and too strong.”