Paddy Barnes was left gutted by his shock exit from the World Championships in Azerbaijan yesterday and now has one last chance to make London 2012.
Barnes, the 2010 European light-flyweight champion, was expected to breeze through to a last 16 clash with China’s Zou Shiming in a re-match of their 2008 Olympic semi-final when the Belfast man came off second best.
But Mark Barriga of the Philippines had other ideas in Baku and produced arguably the performance of his career to stun buzzsaw Barnes.
The Holy Family boxer was 6-4 down after the first round and Barriga, filled with a real belief he could pull off an upset, went further ahead before taking a 20-12 decision after three engaging rounds.
Should Barnes have beaten Shiming and made the quarter-finals he would have booked his place on the plane to the London Olympics. Now he is left with one final chance to make it to next year’s Games, when he competes at the European Olympic qualifying event in Istanbul next April.
Just how far he will have to go in the qualifying tournament will depend on how many Europeans qualify from the World Championships. The European quota is eight so once the quarter-finals are established in Baku then Barnes will know whether or not he has to probably make the semi-finals at least.
There was better news for the Irish as David Oliver Joyce produced a second successive sparkling performance to book his spot in the last 16.
The St Michael's Athy lightweight shared the first frame 5-5 with Mohammad Khaiber of Afghanistan in but then dominated the next six minutes to win 26-13.
The 2009 EU champion will now face Asian Games silver medalist Jai Bhagwan of India for a place at the Olympics.
Middleweight Darren O'Neill is also just one win away from qualifying for the Olympics following an edge-of-the-seat 15-13 victory over Egypt's Mohamad Hikal yesterday.
O'Neill took a 4-2 first round lead but Hikal reduced the deficit to 8-7 by the end of the second.
Both boxers received public warnings in the third but O’Neill managed to edge home and now meets Mladen Manev of Bulgaria in the last-16 with a place in London up for grabs. The Kilkenny southpaw beat Manev 6-0 at last year’s European Championships in Moscow.
Cavan bantamweight John Joe Nevin, a bronze medal winner at the 2009 World Championships, denied India's Akhil Kumar the opportunity to qualify for his third Olympics with an impressive 21-14 verdict.
Irish captain Ken Egan, a silver medal winner at the 2008 Olympics, bowed out when retired by the Irish corner 80 seconds into the third round of his heavyweight contest after being forced into a standing count by Cuba's Jose Larduet- Gomez. Larduet-Gomez was 23-11 up going into the final round.
“He worked me out very quickly. I was attacking, catching him with counters,” said Egan (pictured).
“He boxed well. He caught me with some great shots. “There was nothing I could do, I gave it everything I had. I know I'm good enough to be up at this weight. It's all a work in progress. It's not over until the fat lady sings.”
Meanwhile, four Great Britain boxers have the chance to become the first host nation fighters to guarantee their places in London today.
Anthony Ogogo, Thomas Stalker, Fred Evans and Luke Campbell all head into last-16 bouts in their respective weight categories in the knowledge that one more victory will secure their tickets to the Games.
Flyweight rivals Khalid Yafai and Andrew Selby, heavyweight Simon Vallily and super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua can also move closer to London, although none will be assured of qualification today.
Middleweight Ogogo produced the British highlight of yesterday’s action with a stunning 12-11 win over top Russian Artem Chebotarev.