Barnes inspired Conlan's Olympic dream
Belfast flyweight Michael Conlan has revealed how Paddy Barnes' infamous bronze medal rant inspired him to pursue his one-time rival all the way to the Olympic Games.
The 20-year-old Conlan was watching on television when fellow Belfast man Barnes reacted to his 15-0 semi-final defeat to China's Zou Shiming in 2008 by raging: "They can keep their bronze medal, I don't care. It's for losers."
Conlan told the Press Association: "Four years ago I was sat at home watching Paddy go crazy on the TV, telling them they could stick their bronze medal. I watched Paddy doing brilliantly and I wanted to fight him and achieve the same things."
He added: "I sparred with him a few months later and he gave me a good boxing lesson and I didn't want to fight him again. I don't think he liked me at the time because I was always saying I was going to beat him, but now we're more or less best mates."
Conlan and Barnes are part of a six-strong Ireland boxing squad heading to the London Games, which also includes John Joe Nevin, Adam Nolan, Darren O'Neill and four-time women's world champion Katie Taylor.
Conlan, who grew up on the city's Falls Road, won two Irish senior titles but was a virtual after-thought in terms of Olympic contention until he booked his place by reaching the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Championships in Baku.
Beaten by a single point in the last eight by world and European silver medallist Andrew Selby, Conlan's fleet-footed displays unveiled him as a top prospect and gave him the belief that he belonged at the top level.
"The Selby fight gave me a lot of confidence," added Conlan.
"Selby is much more experienced than me so I know I'm up there with the best. I've believed since 2004 I would go to the Olympics and since 2008 getting to London has been my dream, and it has come true for me."
For his part, Barnes insists he has long since shrugged off that disappointment in Beijing, and is in good shape to become Ireland's first ever double Olympic boxing medallist despite a year of injuries and inconsistency.