They have been delighting their fans inside the ring in recent days but away from the television cameras a private tussle is being slugged out by Belfast’s boxing heroes.
Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan have been going toe-to-toe throughout the Games — but it’s not medals or trophies at stake between the best pals and room-mates.
The Team Ireland pair have had their legions of fans in stitches with their exchanges on Twitter — notably their competition to get pictured with, or secure autographs, from the most famous faces at the Games.
After Tuesday’s fight Michael (20) added tennis superstar Serena Williams and former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis to his collection, sharing the pictures on Twitter.
But he has some way to go to match Paddy (25) who has been snap-happy since the start of the games and claims he is so popular round the Olympic Village the world’s fastest man — Usain Bolt — asked him for an autograph.
He even posted a cheeky picture of himself standing yards from the legendary sprinter.
His online scrapbook also contains sprinters Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, plus tennis stars Novak Djokovic and our very own Andy Murray.
The couple were back on Twitter exchanging blows yesterday morning with Paddy taking a swipe at Michael’s snoring.
Paddy posted: “(He) may have got into the medal rounds last night but if he keeps up his snoring I’ll be battering him — Olympics or no Olympics!”
Michael jabbed back: “His snoring is the worst! I don’t even snore!”
Michael’s father John said the rapport between the two is proving to be an excellent distraction from the pressure of competing on a world stage, with Michael drawing from Paddy’s previous experience of fighting at Olympic level.
“Michael got his picture with Serena Williams and then Lennox Lewis as well came down after the fight,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“Him and Paddy have a competition between the two of them to see who can get pictures with the most athletes.
“Paddy seems to be winning because he’s chasing people down!
“Seriously though, Paddy has been fantastic because he has been there before,” he added.
“Him and Michael are best of friends and they are also rooming together.
“They are also the closest weight so they know what each other has to go through and they help each other.
“I saw Paddy had tweeted this morning that he didn’t care about Michael’s bronze medal, and if he didn’t stop snoring he was going to get choked — so that’s typical Paddy.
“We’re going to say a few prayers for him today that he does well.”
On Saturday Paddy tweeted from inside the ring after his fight.
He wrote: “Job done from the Olympic ring. Paddy Barnes — bringing you closer to the action.”
He later claimed: “Think I’m the first boxer to tweet from inside the ring.”
Asked about his competition with Conlan for famous mementos he joked: “It’s been desperate getting chased round the village by all these famous athletes wanting autographs and pictures.
“But I have to stand there and give it to them all because I don’t want to be ignorant.”
When pressed for the identity of the most famous athlete who had asked for his autograph, Barnes replied: “Probably Usain Bolt.”
Paddy is also involved in a battle for Twitter followers with another Ireland team-mate and fellow boxer John Joe Nevin.
Factfile: how they got there
- Paddy Barnes: Won his first Olympic medal in Beijing, receiving a bronze after he was defeated by Shiming Zou in the semi-final. He then won gold for Northern Ireland in 2010 at the Commonwealth Games before clinching a place at London 2012 after a qualifier win over Stefan Caslarov in Turkey.
- Michael Conlan: At only 20 years old, the west Belfast flyweight rose from the ranks at the St John Bosco club to Olympic stardom, qualifying for the event after reaching the quarter-finals of the World Amateur Championships last year. In his debut match at the 2012 Olympics in London, he defeated Ghanaian boxer Duke Micah 19-8.