Belfast Telegraph

Boxers can be inspiration for others, says Paddy Barnes

Perfect Paddy proves he's our lord of the ring

By Steven Beacom

Paddy Barnes believes other sports in Northern Ireland should learn from our kings – and queens – of the boxing ring. The Belfast man's comments came after a stunning day of success for the Team NI boxers at the Commonwealth Games.

All six of our fighters won their quarter-final bouts and, added to the three who did the same on Tuesday, Northern Ireland will bring an amazing NINE boxing medals home from Glasgow.

Yesterday Barnes, Michael Conlan, Steven Donnelly and Connor Coyle made it through to the semi-finals, joining male counterparts Joe Fitzpatrick, Sean Duffy and Sean McGlinchy at that stage.

That means SEVEN out of the nine-man team are guaranteed a medal and for the women it is two out of two with Michaela Walsh and Alana Audley-Murphy also qualifying for tomorrow's last-four contests.

Overall Team NI are now assured of at least 11 visits to the podium, which is one better than the figure achieved in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

It is an impressive statistic... and one that the brilliant boxers have made possible.

Barnes, who won gold in India four years ago, feels the success inside the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre is down to self belief as much as ability and would like to see other sportsmen and sportswomen across Northern Ireland show the same mental strength.

Light-flyweight Barnes, who stopped Papua New Guinea's Charles Keama in the final round after a scintillating display, said: "We are winning these medals because of self belief and our ability, but mostly it's the confidence that we have.

"We believe that we are the best and we are showing it.

"I think other sports in Northern Ireland could learn from us. You have other teams saying they are facing Australia and they are stronger, but that has to change some time and you have to have the self belief to make it change. The boxers have that self belief."

Barnes, 27, has now finished both of his contests early. In Glasgow he is spending more time talking to the media than he is in the ring.

And he is loving it.

Question: How are you coping with the pressure of being team leader?

Answer: Pressure is for tyres!

Question: Are you intent on knocking every opponent out over here?

Answer: I'd love to knock them all out.

Question: What's the standard like?

Answer: It's harder to win an Irish title than some Commonwealth titles. Except for England and the other home nations and India the rest aren't up to much.

Question: What's it like being the elder statesman of this boxing team?

Answer: They are all torturing me. Steven Donnelly actually cut my gumshield in half this morning and they are hiding my clothes. They are taking the mick out of me. They were slagging me off before my fight saying they all had medals and I had to get one too. I told them 'listen boys I have a gold medal lying in my kitchen. I don't need to win'.

And so on and so on from Barnes who predicts that Team NI will go on to win NINE gold medals in the boxing ring and that Walsh will beat England's Olympic champion Nicola Adams in her final.

While Barnes didn't have to go the three rounds, Ballymena welterweight Donnelly and Londonderry middleweight Coyle won on unanimous points decisions after impressive displays.

Donnelly was in dynamic form with his quick hands and feet overcoming Canada's world number eight Custio Clayton.

"Going into it I knew that was going to be my final as he was the favourite," said Donnelly.

"It doesn't mean the rest will be easy but my confidence is sky high now.

"To win a fight against a quality opponent like that on the big stage meant a lot. Now I want gold. No one remembers bronze. I don't want to settle for bronze."

Coyle also put on a dominant performance, easily defeating South Africa's Siphiwe Lusizi, but states much better is to come in tomorrow's semi-final.

"I was in second gear and I didn't really get going. You'll see far better from me in my next fight," said Coyle, who stayed composed when his opponent attempted to wind him up.

"It's been a great day for the team. Nine medals is just class."

It sure is. Now all nine are setting their sights on turning bronze into gold... and they have the belief to do it.

Belfast Telegraph

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