Barnes one win away from third Olympics
Double Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes is one win away from becoming the first ever Irish boxer to qualify for three Olympic Games.
On Saturday night in the Venezuelan coastal city of Maiquetia, the Belfast light flyweight bids to maintain his one hundred percent record in the 2015 World Boxing Series.
Since January Barnes has reeled off six unanimous victories on the spin. Another win - a split decision will suffice - guarantees the 28-year-old a place at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
By any standards Barnes has experienced a remarkable journey both inside and outside the ring in pursuit of the single Olympic qualifying place available for light fly weights from the WSB series.
Bouts in the series last for five rounds which means that Barnes has completed 30 rounds of competitive boxing in less than three months - the equivalent of two and half full world professional championship fights.
Furthermore, Barnes has totted up nearly 20,000 in air miles this year with visits to Baku in Azerbaijan, the Polish city of Konin, Almaty in Kazakhstan and the Italian city of Palermo, Pescara and Milan and the current marathon trip to Venezuela. And he hates flying and foreign travel!
Barnes faces 18-year-old southpaw Finol Rivas who is ranked sixth in the WSB series having recorded four wins and lost just once.
Barnes currently leads the WSB by two points from Hasanboy Dusmatov from Uzbekistan who also has one fight left.
But a win of any kind for Barnes will earn him four ranking him points giving them an unassailable six point advantage over Dusmatov who dropped two crucial points when one of his scheduled fights was cancelled because his opponent scratched.
Barnes' ambitions, however, extend way beyond just qualifying for Rio 2016. 'I'm not just interested in qualifying for major championships like the Olympics I want to win medals at them,' he said.
Meanwhile, Irish bantamweight Michael Conlan needs to win on Saturday night to keep alive his slim chances of qualifying for Rio via the WSB series. His two previous losses are likely to scupper his chances, however, But he will pursue other avenues of qualification in the next year.