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Paddy Barnes: Belfast boxer has stormed into history

By Steven Beacom

You can call him a history maker now. Paddy Barnes is the first Irish boxer to win TWO Olympic medals. He will wear the tag well.

He'll also enjoy putting another major prize around his neck after making it through to the semi-finals of the light flyweight division at London 2012 on Wednesday night.

Like his great mate and fellow Belfast boxer Michael Conlan, we'll know what colour he's bringing home by the weekend.

They have bronze for now but after winning the same in Beijing four years ago, Barnes is desperate for gold this time.

Forget the jokes, the playing the fool and those endless tweets. He may be a funny man outside the ring but once inside it he's a serious performer.

He proved that against a dangerous and rough opponent in Indian Devendro Singh Laishram, coming through 23-18 after three fiery rounds in the ExCeL Arena, which not for the first time was packed with Irish fans making one heck of a racket.

Barnes, 25, had been up against Laishram in sparring sessions, when the Indians trained in Dublin before the Olympics, so he knew what to expect.

And the 20-year-old didn't disappoint as expected coming forward any chance he could in an attempt to take the fight to the more experienced man.

That experience stood Barnes, wearing red, in good stead from the first bell.

The north Belfast fighter used his jab to good effect and put together scoring combinations with his quicksilver hands.

The flurry of accurate punches would have been appreciated by Barnes’ mentor back in Belfast, that great trainer Gerry Storey who has forgotten more about his art than most will ever know.

By the end of round one with chants of “Paddy, Paddy, Paddy” ringing in his ears, Barnes was 7-5 up. He'd even thrown his opponent to the floor to separate the pair of them from a clinch.

In the second round Barnes was making the boy in blue, who serves in his national army, look sloppy and ragged.

You could see as the Holy Family fighter picked up the points with clever boxing, Laishram was becoming more and more frustrated. So much so that he head-butted Barnes.

Disqualification many thought at ringside, but instead the Indian was given a warning for illegal use of the head providing Barnes with two extra points which he gratefully accepted, leading him to win the round 10-5 and take a 17-10 advantage into the last three minutes.

There was no way Barnes was going to let that margin slip even though his opponent came out throwing wild punches like he was in a schoolyard dust-up.

Barnes was calm and patient enough to deal with it, though handing two points to Laishram for holding was not the wisest move.

By then, though, Barnes with his fast hands and dancing feet had done more than enough. He may have lost the final round 8-6 but the 23-18 triumph was well deserved.

Once the figures were announced, Barnes punched the air with glee.

That's two fights down for the 2010 European and Commonwealth Games champion and two fights to go for the gold he craves.

Next up is the best around, China's Olympic and multi-world champion Zou Shiming (pictured), who before Barnes entered the ring beat Birzhan Zhakypov from Kazakhstan 13-10 in a closer contest than expected.

It was Shiming, the number one seed in this weight category, who beat Barnes in some style in the semi-finals in Beijing.

The scoreline then was a ridiculous 15-0 to the home fighter which infuriated the Ulsterman, who was not shy in launching an attack on the judges.

Maybe he should think back and recall how he felt at the time and channel that anger in London tomorrow.

Shrewd tactics will be key to any success.

Another is the confidence oozing round Irish boxing as this is turning into an astonishingly successful tournament with Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Conlan and now Barnes assured of medals.

What should also help Barnes is that most of the crowd will be with him.

On this occasion, unlike in 2008, Barnes will effectively be on his own patch.

It's going to be desperately difficult for Barnes to beat his old adversary, but he's not without a genuine chance.

And one thing's for sure, it won't be 15-0!

Belfast Telegraph

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