Barnes gears up for World Championships

Barnes (red) got her first taste of international competition at the Commonwealth Games in April. - Photo and story by Ben Meade

Brandy Barnes is set to represent the Cayman Islands at her second major international championships for 2018 when she travels to India for the AIBA Women’s World Championships taking place in November.

Barnes (3-1) has been putting in the hours in the gym under the guidance of new coach, Stuart O’Connor, who took up the role as national boxing coach in July.

“With Stuart coming in, we’ve been getting to know each other. I’ve been learning a lot about the technical side of boxing, whereas previously I was learning a lot about the fitness side,” Barnes said.

The 22-year-old has been short on ring experience, with her most recent bout coming on 1 June in St Maarten when she scored a unanimous decision against D Asher Ferdinand of the host country at the Battle of Islands.

Since then, there’s been little opportunity for the light flyweight fighter to get sparring sessions with virtually no local opponents to lace up the gloves and step into the ring. “There has not been much of that but that has not stopped me from coming in and training,” Barnes said during a recent training session.

O’Connor said he’s been impressed by Barnes’ self-motivation despite the obstacles. “The chances of sparring are very limited over here. So, to be able to stay motivated, keep coming into the gym, keep learning different things – that personal motivation can be a massive advantage when you’re in the ring.”

Barnes also said her debut at the Commonwealth Games in Australia earlier in the year, where she lost her first fight inside the opening round to Sri Lanka’s Anusha Dilrukshi Koddithuwakku, as a valuable learning experience.

“That opened my eyes to what my competition is like. She was very strong, even as a 40kg woman. I felt like I didn’t know another woman my size could be as strong,” she said of her first time on the international stage.

Barnes heads to the ring at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

O’Connor said getting to work with Barnes in the months after that experience, he’s been able to methodically get her ready for what lies ahead at the AIBA World Championships.

“We’ve started the process from when she competed in the Commonwealth Games. We’ve looked at and analysed that performance and identified key strategies to improve her performance and grow her as a boxer,” the coach said.

With that work put in, the pair head to the UK next week for some additional training and sparring ahead of the tournament in India. O’Connor said the work will continue to get Barnes ready for competition.

“We can look at some of the tactical things that she needs to be able to do. If she can practice that in the ring now…then when we go back to the UK and get some sparring, she’ll be able to display that in the ring,” he said.

Barnes said she was looking forward to getting to the UK for the additional ring experience. “I’m expecting for [Stuart] to push me hard. I’m expecting quality sparring and then I’m looking forward to the experience in India. I’m looking to that helping me grow as a boxer,” she said.

And her goal for the World Championships? “I’ll be happy if I could showcase what I’ve been learning the past few months. It’s showing that I’ve grown since my last fight.”

The coach said he wants to see her to continue to grow as a fighter and get at least one win under her belt, knowing that a run to the quarterfinals could secure a berth for her at the 2020 Olympic Games. Should she get eliminated early, O’Connor is planning a series of sparring sessions for Barnes with other boxers who have also seen their run at the tournament come to an end.

The AIBA World Championships run 13-25 November in New Delhi, India.

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