Paddy Barnes: ‘A title in my third fight? I hadn’t sparred 10 rounds until this camp’

As he prepares to fight for a European title in just his third bout as a pro, Paddy Barnes discusses his controversies, his MBE regrets and his mate Rory McIlroy

By Paul Gibson for The Balls of Wrath, part of the Guardian Sport Network

“A lot of people don’t realise how big and how serious a fight this is,” says Paddy Barnes a few days before he challenges for the vacant WBO European flyweight title in just his third professional outing. “A 10-rounder for a title in your third fight? I hadn’t even sparred 10 rounds until this camp.”

Driven by a fear of the unknown for the first time in years, Barnes left the comfort of his young family behind for a long, hot slog at the MTK headquarters in southern Spain. “It was a hard camp because of the heat. The gym in Marbella is like a sauna and that makes every session tougher. But the ring on fightnight is hot under the lights so it stands me in good stead. I nearly died when I did my first five-round spar but I soon learned to pace myself.”

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