Boxers Paddy Barnes and Ken Egan are the toast of Ireland today after quarter-final wins at the Workers Stadium last night that guarantee them at least an Olympic bronze medal. They’ll be the first for the country since Sonia O’Sullivan’s silver in the 5000m final in Sydney in 2000 and they have matched Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth’s achievement of two medals at the Barcelona Games sixteen years ago. The ‘Pocket Rocket’ won silver and Carruth the gold.
Barnes took control of his bout against Poland’s Lukasz Maszczyk in the second round after the first ended even at 2-2.
The 21-year-old Holy Family fighter had failed to convert quarter-final opportunities before at both the Commonwealth Games and World Championships but cleverly picked his opponent off with some fine punches, all the time frustrating Maszczyk. He led at the halfway point of the contest by 7-5 and never looked like surrendering the lead.
Barnes had been beaten by the Pole by twelve points in his first international appearance in Galway but not on this occasion.
Maszcyk wouldn’t land a punch that scored throughout the final two rounds and Barnes attacked only when the opportunity arose and coasted to an 11-5 win.
“It feels brilliant; I’m over the moon so I am. Just glad to get that fight out the way, probably one of the most nervous fights of my life, because I knew I had a medal at stake .Unfortunately I was fighting a guy who had beaten me before in Ireland, but I’m just glad to get it out of the way now,” he said afterwards.
“Once I catch them they don’t want to know, he was a good boxer, but I didn’t box his fight, I closed him down as the coaches told me to do, and stick my right hand in his face. I just felt I was too strong and fast for him.”
The victory secured a fight with Shiming Zou from China on Friday for a place in the gold medal match. The world champion beat Barnes 22-8 in November of last year and will be a big outsider, but after today’s showing he should be full of confidence.
Trainer Billy Walsh admitted, “It’s amazing for his age, he is only 21 and nothing seems to bother him. He is a bit different than everyone else; the pressure doesn’t seem to get to him.
He did exactly what he was told, we asked him to close him down and stay with him, for the first round, not let him get ahead of you because this boy runs like the damned. Once you go in there, close range and just keep throwing, because there you are going to score and that’s what he did.”
Two hours later Egan entered the ring against Washington Silva from Brazil and wasn’t in the mood to let Barnes steal all the headlines.
Egan started the light-heavyweight contest strongly and was never troubled.
The Irish team captain took a three point lead in the first round, the second was scoreless but a couple of great shots to the body of the Brazilian in the third opened the gap up to 7-0 and the last was a formality with Egan tagging on another point. He will face Britain’s Tony Jefferies in the semi-final.
“It’s amazing; I’m on top of the world. I finally reached my goal- getting onto the podium at the Olympic Games. I thought I boxed absolutely brilliant out there, every round. No excuses. It was brilliant. I didn’t set a foot wrong-from the first to the last bell. I’m delighted to be through with no injuries, and I meet Jeffries in the semis so that’s even better again,” he said afterwards.
“I was watching Paddy at home in the apartment, I wasn’t in the stadium. He got off to a flying start. I said to myself I better not get beaten, or I’ll have the wee man giving me stick.”
Darren Sutherland looks to make it three medals today when he fights the world silver medallist from last year in Chicago, Alfonso Blanco Parra from Venezuela.