Barnes forced to dig deep as he moves up in the world after Waterfront brawl
It says a lot when success has taken more out of the victor than the vanquished. Such was the aftermath of 10 furious rounds at the Waterfront Hall when Paddy Barnes triumphed over Romanian veteran Silvio Olteanu.
Sitting in his dressing room, the usual lilt in the voice was absent. Barnes had been stretched as never before by the former world title challenger who belied his 39 years with a relentless intensity. The jump from journeymen to experienced title campaigner was the test he had asked for but maybe even Barnes didn't expect it to be so exhausting.
Two rooms down the corridor and Madrid-based Olteanu was once again being asked by wife Lucia to hang up his gloves.
"I told you that I am still in shape and I still have the power. She is my wife and of course she wants me to retire but I won't retire," said the ebullient 39-year-old, who felt he could have been given the verdict.
"This is the business, this is boxing. If this fight is in Madrid I think I would have got the decision. A lot of the rounds were close. He's a good fighter, he has a lot of experience as an amateur and I think he can go on and fight for a world title."
At the end of this bruising 10 rounds, Barnes was given the vacant WBO European flyweight title by majority decision. One judge had it 95-each, while the other two scored for Barnes 97-94, 97-93, while on my card the Belfast man was a seven rounds to three winner.
Barnes had been stung in the second round by right hand, rocking back on his heels momentarily and for the greater part of the fight it was Olteanu forcing the pace which the Belfast man responded to as they engaged in tough close quarter assaults.
Moving up from two six rounders, double Olympic bronze medallist Barnes demonstrated his grit, picked his shots well and when he was feeling the pace managed to dig in and fire back. It was no surprise that down the stretch he was outworked in rounds eight and nine but managed to take the 10th, even rocking the Romanian at the start of the final three minutes.
"I'm a bit relieved because it was a very tough fight. It was a tough 10 rounds and my head was all over the place at times because I would rock him and I didn't know whether or not to step on the gas because I was told to pace it a bit," said Barnes.
"At this stage of my career it was a tough test, he was a very good fighter. I knew how game he would be… he did catch me with a hard shot in the second round. I'm glad it was a tough fight because it should bring people back. Hopefully more people will come to the next one.
"I'd now like to fight for the WBO inter-continental title, to push me closer to a WBO world title fight with Zou Shiming. That's the big money fight."
Coach Danny Vaughan was suggesting a little more caution when it comes to the next step along the professional road for Barnes.
"I thought it was a fantastic performance. We could have kept fighting journeymen and got 10 wins but Paddy doesn't want to do it that way, he likes to do it his own way. I would maybe have preferred to have an eight rounder before this but Paddy showed his heart and ticked a lot of the boxes," said Vaughan.
"I think he should defend the belt a couple of times before taking another big step up.
"The world champion Zou Shiming is on the radar but you're looking at that after another 18 months."
On the supporting bill, popular Belfast light-heavyweight Steven Ward easily stopped Hungarian Istvan Orsos after four one-sided rounds.
Ward had the southpaw journeyman down in the first with a spiteful left hook to the body and then just continued to land at will until referee Eamonn Magill called a halt just after the bell sounded to end the fourth round.
Irish super-lightweight Tyrone McKenna stayed on course for a title fight in September with a routine fourth round stoppage of Hungarian Ferenc Katona.
Hard hitting welterweight prospect Lewis Crocker picked up a second straight win with a second round stoppage of flabby Bulgarian journeyman Radoslav Mitev.
Derry super-middleweight Sean McGlinchey had a routine 40-36 victory over Dan Blackwell, while Dublin's Jono Carroll won a barn-burner with Liverpool's Johnny Quigley to win the IBF European super-feather belt.