Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes says: 'They can keep bronze medal'
Heartbroken Paddy Barnes bagged an Olympic medal yesterday after a die-hard performance which failed to see him score a single point, only to declare: "They can keep their bronze medal".
Family and friends of the fighter called the result "a disgrace" after China's Zou Shiming notched up 15 points on the judges' scorecards over four intensely-contested two-minute rounds.
Barnes (21) put in a tireless performance, earning him praise from boxing pundits, but the light flyweight could not hide his own disgust after the final bell. He even told the Olympic committee to "keep their bronze medal".
Paddy's brother Michael (18) watched the fight surrounded by family at the Glen Park Inn near west Belfast's Crumlin road.
He said: "The result is a disgrace, there were four Chinese judges and they gave everything to their fighter and nothing to Paddy. I am pure raging.
"His effort was second to none and he scored points which weren't awarded to him.
"He will overcome this and be back stronger. He's got the mentality to go on to better things.
"Words can't describe how proud of him I am, but the way the fight was scored was disgusting and hard to watch."
Barnes was eight points down by the end of the second round despite pressing Shiming, but the Chinese fighter's slick footwork and counter-punching was too much.
His uncle, Conor Barnes (35) said: "He was fighting one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and he had a great chance.
"If he had got off to a better start . . . things may have been different.
"It is a real shame he didn't score. I thought there were at least four or five points which he should have got, but he is coming home with the bronze medal and he has done Ireland proud.
"He is still our hero and we want to get him home . . . there is a big party waiting for him."
Paddy's girlfriend Mari Burns (21), returned home from Beijing fifteen minutes before the fight started. She said: "Being in Beijing was amazing. The support for Paddy was incredible.
"It was hard to see him so emotional after the fight. But everyone saw that he did not stop, he did not tire and he did not give up."
Paddy's cousin Michael Noble (18) said: "I am disappointed that he didn't score, but we are very pleased with the bronze.
"By the end of the fight, he was going for the knock-out because that's all he could hope for. He showed the guts he has.
"Paddy has competed in the biggest and the best sporting event in the world . . . Now it is all about London in 2012.
Declan Noble (16) said: "To get to the semi-final of the Olympics is a great achievement. I thought he would have got to the final, but the judges seemed slightly biased towards his opponent.
"It was hard to see him fight and watch no points go up on the board, but he will come back stronger from the experience."
And the Olympic boxer's grandmother Phyllis said: "He did well because he was fighting a champion boxer.
"I know nothing about boxing, but I thought he should have had a few points. He worked very hard these last years to get where he is.
"He'll be on the phone later today and I'll tell him how proud I am of him."