Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes secures medal

Ireland's Paddy Barnes (red) with head coach Billy Walsh celebrates after securing a Bronze medal in his Men's Boxing Light Flyweight bout against India's Devendro Singh Laishram at the Excel Arena, London
Ireland's Paddy Barnes (red) with head coach Billy Walsh celebrates after securing a Bronze medal in his Men's Boxing Light Flyweight bout against India's Devendro Singh Laishram at the Excel Arena, London
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08: Paddy Barnes of Team Ireland looks on during his bout against Devendro Singh Laishram of India during the Men's Light Fly (49kg) Boxing quarterfinals on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 8, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes raised the bar for Irish sport last night and raised the roof in the Chester Bar while he was at it.

He made it two Olympic medals for his city and the locals showed their full appreciation with seismic shouts that would rattle the Richter scale.

To most it looked like he had given his all to take the bronze, but his family insisted he was keeping his best to go for gold.

Judging by the roaring in north Belfast, you could have been mistaken for thinking the 25-year-old had won the title.

But he still made history as he becomes the first-ever Irish boxer to take a medal at consecutive Games.

Barnes kept his fans and family enthralled as he defeated his Indian opponent Devendro Singh Laishram -- five years his junior -- following a bruising three rounds of epic boxing. No sooner had the final bell sounded than the bottles of champagne began to pop, with sparkling wine drenching fans.

In London, cheering on with the rest of his close family was his father Paddy senior, who said his reception and crowds had been "absolutely fantastic".

"We are feeling delighted and relieved. The atmosphere was amazing and he got a great reception. There just seemed to be more and more Irish fans here," he added.

"And as for gold, I've always said he could do it and he has it in him this time around. He's fighting an absolutely fantastic boxer -- but I've always said, one day he could beat him, and I don't say that lightly."

It was a second night of uproarious cheers in the city, after the young talent of west Belfast's Michael Conlan secured a bronze medal. While Paddy's family were joined by a gaggle of Irish support in London, those at the Chester Bar said they now expected nothing else but big things from Barnes.

One former Holy Family club member who knew exactly what the north Belfast man was feeling, was fellow Olympian boxer -- Hugh Russell -- who won bronze in the 1980 Games.

He said Paddy's eyes were now firmly fixed on gold.

"It was super. He boxed very well, and very much within himself," he added. "He'll be delighted and his coach will be delighted."

And last night it wasn't just the old boxing fraternity that made an appearance, but countless scores of young fans.

Paddy's five-year-old cousin Cormac said he was "very very proud of him".

"He did very well. I'm very proud of him and he can win the gold," he added. Another proud family member was Paddy's brother Gareth (19), who said there was "no doubt" he could go all the way after the quarter-final win.

"I think his main focus is the next fight, to show how he can beat him," he added.

"It's great with so many people here. I don't see a reason why he can't go all the way."

His brother Michael said Paddy was "saving it all".

"This is the main one and I definitely think Paddy has a gold medal in him."

Barnes will now face off with his nemesis, China's Zou Shiming -- the man who defeated him in the Beijing Olympics --tomorrow.

If the support both in London and at home is anything to go by, Paddy is about to strike gold.

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