Paddy Barnes is turning professional and already has a potential opponent in mind

The two-time Olympic bronze medallist says he is seeking “a new challenge”

Irish Olympic boxer and two-time Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes confirmed today that he is turning professional.

In a statement released today, the Belfast boxer expressed the need to seek a "new challenge" and admitted that he may have stayed "too long" in the amateur ranks.

"Now it’s time to go pro, I’ve been in the amateurs too long and I want a new challenge," he told Paddy Power. "The experience was brilliant, but after a few Olympics I know what it’s like.

He continued: "My debut will possibly be before Christmas in Belfast. It’s my home city so it would be great to begin my career there.

"I’m going to start off at a flyweight, hopefully move through the weights and probably end up bantamweight at the end of my career.

"I’ll still be disappointed with my (amateur) career, not winning a gold medal. That will never leave me, but bringing back the world title is something that’s just as recognisable. That will in some ways make up for it."

Barnes, who was beaten in his first fight at the Olympic Games last month, has already got his sights set on the flyweight title and has a competitor in mind already.

"I obviously want to win a world title, but the fight that I really want is the guy from China – Zou Shiming.

"He’s the big money fight and he’s the one who I’ll be targeting. I want to win the world title, go to China and defend it against him."

He also shared his feelings about the Olympics in Brazil and the conditions in which the athletes were be staying.

"I hated Rio, the village was terrible. Beijing was amazing, London was amazing – but the Olympic village wasn’t even finished. It was flooded half the time, it just wasn’t nice.

"In Rio, I thought my training was perfect. I went in, I made the weight okay – I struggled to lose a bit of it alright.

"The only thing which hampered me was that I weighed in at eight in the morning and I fought at 11am. So I’d three hours to recover and that’s something that I never had to do in my whole career.

"You usually have at least seven or eight hours, three hours was just madness. It’s just the way AIBA set it out, it’s nothing I could have trained for."