Barnes, Conlan and Ward secure titles at Elite Championships
LONDON 2012 bronze medallists Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan hammered out a Belfast double at the Elite Championships finals at the National Stadium.
Barnes beat Hughie Myers, the defending light-fly champion, in a repeat of the 2012 final, which he also won, on a unanimous decision (29-28 29-27 30-27) in a slug-fest.
And Conlan, who had claimed the flyweight crown for the previous three years, secured his first bantamweight belt.
The AIBA World No 2 outgunned 2010 European Championships bronze medallist Tyrone McCullough, the 2010 Elite featherweight champion.
Conlan was clipped near the end for showboating – a punch he acknowledged – but the final decision – 30-27 29-28 30-27 – spoke for itself.
Last night's win secured Barnes' seventh title since 2007, but the Ulster dynamo admitted that Myers had asked some questions.
"He was very fit, good to see, he pushed me right to the last," said Barnes. "It was a good fight, I'm just so glad to have come out the right side of it.
"Tough fight – every round was close, I got in some killer shots and scored maybe a bit more. Seven titles? Yeah, I'll keep going, see what happens. Kenny (Egan) won 10 in a row so I can't match that."
Conlan, meanwhile, has one eye on Commonwealth gold for Northern Ireland in Glasgow this summer.
"I knew it was going to be a cagey fight, I was prepared for anything – thank God I came out the winner," he said.
"I knew it was going to be close, no matter what. Tyrone is a very, very good boxer. I just had to go out there and execute a game plan which I didn't even have planned in my head until I got in the ring – once I got in there it just fell into place.
"Four in a row... Damien Kelly did it from flyweight to bantam also; it's a good achievement for me personally.
"Hopefully, I can keep it going this year and win a Commonwealth gold medal."
Meanwhile, a fired up David Oliver Joyce dethroned defending champion Sean McComb on a split-decision (28-29 28-29 30-27) in an explosive lightweight duel.
And defending champion Adam Nolan lost his bid for his fourth welterweight title in a row after being shaded on a split decision by Ballymena's Stephen Donnelly.
To round off a perfect night for Donnelly he also picked up the best boxer award for his victory.
The third split-decision of the evening went to new middleweight champion Michael O'Reilly at the expense of Darren O'Neill, who was targeting his fifth Irish crown.
O'Neill later tweeted: "Lost tonight. I'll look back at it but felt I should've gotten it. Bad 1st, tight 2nd but won last by country mile. Massive thanks 4 support."
Joe Ward found the target with some big and varied shots en route to a unanimous decision victory over the durable Matthew Tinker to seal his fourth successive title in the light-heavy class.
"I'm just glad to win my fourth title tonight," said Ward. "It's great to get the four, my Irish title is always very important to me."
Another multiple champion, Con Sheehan regained his title at super-heavyweight when he clinched his sixth national title with a victory over Clonmel club-mate Dean Gardiner.
The women's Elite finals will be decided tonight at the National Stadium. Olympic champion Katie Taylor has received a walkover.