Sunday 21 January 2018

Barnes pushed to the limit to land European flyweight belt

Paddy Barnes
Paddy Barnes

Bernard O'Neill

Paddy Barnes admitted he had to go into the trenches to claim the vacant WBO European flyweight title after only his third pro fight in his native Belfast on Saturday night.

The three-time Irish Olympian, nicknamed 'The Leprechaun', beat durable Romanian Silvio Olteanu on a majority decision - 97-94,97-93, 95-95 - after ten see-saw rounds at the Waterfront Hall.

The decision moves Barnes into the top 15 in the WBO rankings and should fast-track his plan to challenge for a world title in under 10 outings.

"You'll not get a much tougher test than that, especially this early in my career. The guy I fought was a serious, serious contender. He caught me in the second, it was a proper shot, but it didn't hurt me," said the two-time Olympic bronze medallist.


"He might be 39 but he was twice European champion and lost challenging for the world title. He's a very good fighter and I knew how game and tough he would be."

Madrid-based Olteanu, a rank outsider with the bookies, earned very penny of his purse after testing the Belfast dynamo all the way down to the final bell on the ten-bout card.

Barnes, using his jab industriously, started fluently, but was staggered off balance near the end of the second and soaked up a number of big shots throughout a close-quarter battle with neither fighter backing off in an old-school toe-to-toe dust up.

Olteanu was mostly employing single shots throughout, with Barnes, belligerence personified, responding with flurries of combinations and his trademark high work rate as the frenetic pace continued into the championship rounds.

Olteanu absorbed a big left at the start of the final frame but responded with more aggression.

However, Barnes finished out a fiery contest on the front foot to claim a WBO belt after just 20 rounds of prize fighting in his first three outings so far.

Barnes added: "I was covering up and taking a break and that's why some of the rounds went against me. I was keeping my hands tight and letting him blast away but he wasn't hurting me or catching me.

"It's all good experience for me. I am happy to have had the invaluable experience of the ten rounds and now I can push on."

David Oliver Joyce, who had Katie Taylor's dad Pate working his corner, won on his pro debut on Saturday's promotion, the Mullingar lightweight stopping Hungarian southpaw Gabor Kovacs in the second round.

"Pete is enjoying it and I'm enjoying it. We gel together. He does what I want and I do what he wants. We're just relaxed with each other," said Joyce.

"I loved every minute of it - the ring walk, the atmosphere. The support I got was absolutely crazy. I was a bit wary about his knockouts - he has a bit of a knockout history. But he wasn't up to scratch against me. I just picked my shots.

"I'll take a few days off now because we had a long camp. I'm looking to be back out again in July. I want to be boxing as much as I can."

Meanwhile, Andre Ward proclaimed himself the pound-for-pound world number one after stopping Sergey Kovalev to retain the unified light-heavyweight world title.

An eighth-round win via a controversial technical knockout took Ward to 32 wins from 32 fights and the 33-year-old has now set his sights on climbing the weight classes.

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