Paddy Barnes believes his elite amateur experience will be key when he takes to the ring on Saturday night at the SSE Odyssey Arena.
Belfast native Barnes features on a stacked undercard in support of his friend and MTK Global stablemate Carl Frampton, who returns to the ring in a headline featherweight bout against Mexico’s Horacio Garcia, live on BT Sport and BoxNation.
Barnes had hoped to defend his WBO European flyweight title for the first time on the bill, but complications surrounding potential opponents has led to a change of plan and the three-time Olympian will instead fight for the WBO inter-continental strap over 10 rounds as he bids to boost his world ranking.
Experienced Nicaraguan Eliecer Quezada (21-6-3) will be the man in the opposite corner and Barnes admits that he faces a tough test in only his fifth professional bout since turning over to the paid game last year.
“I’ve had a look at him [Quezada] and he’s very, very good,” said Barnes. “My original opponent fell through, so that’s changed everything. I was training for a small come-forward fighter and now I’m fighting a taller opponent, so that’s changed a lot.”
Quezada twice defeated compatriot Yader Cardoza, who pushed Jamie Conlan to a split decision last March. That marked Conlan’s last ring outing ahead of his first world-title shot against Filipino IBF super-flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas on Saturday night.
However, the 30-year-old Barnes – a two-time Olympic medallist and European amateur champion – insists that his amateur pedigree will stand to him this weekend.
“But in the amateurs you’re fighting different styles every day at major tournaments so I’m used to it. I haven’t thought too much about it, I don’t really mind, I’m just looking forward to the fight. I can’t wait, I’m very excited and I’m flying fit, so it should be a good night.”
Barnes is back in action just a few weeks after recording his fourth pro win in Edinburgh when he claimed a six-round points victory over Peruvian Juan Hinostroza.
“That helped me shake off the ring rust coming into this fight,” explained Barnes. “That’ll stand to me. It’s still a bit of a struggle to get the weight down, but I’ve been on a strict diet and I feel sharp and strong and fit.”