Paddy Barnes gets serious to take European title
PADDY Barnes the professional boxer arrived on Saturday night.
The wise-cracking comedy routine was set aside as Belfast’s ‘Leprechaun’ got serious and showed off some sweet skills to capture the WBO European flyweight title over 10 competitive rounds at the Waterfront Hall.
Several of the rounds were close against accurate and experienced Spaniard Silvio Olteanu, but Barnes was the clear winner and it was hard to see how one judge ruled the fight a draw. The other two went for Barnes 97-94 and 97-93.
Given that Ireland’s double Olympic medalist had never gone 10 rounds before (even in sparring), his tendency to go into his shell at times to take a breather was understandable. It counted against him on the scorecards on Saturday, but his stamina will improve as his career progresses and his fluent footwork, sharp reflexes and fast hands all point towards bigger nights to come with WBO flyweight king Zou Shiming and WBC contender Andrew Selby among his future targets.
“He (Olteanu) was a good fighter, very, very tough,” said Barnes.
“I expected 10 rounds. Who am I to knock anybody out? I’ve never had a knockout in my life.
“I’ve never even sparred 10 rounds so it was good to fight 10. At times my head was all over the place because I hurt him and I didn’t know whether to step on the gas because I had to pace myself a bit.
“I sparred nine rounds with Ryan Farrag and he hit me an uppercut and cut my tongue really bad and I couldn’t do the 10th. That’s the first 10 rounds I did in my life.”
Before the fight Romania-born Olteanu was relaxed and confident.
The former WBA title challenger came to win and while, at 39, he wasn’t able to produce the punch-output or power to cause an upset; he gave Barnes a thorough examination.
“You’ll not get a much tougher test than that, especially this early in my career,” said Barnes.
“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.
“He might be 39 but he was twice European champion, he lost challenging for the world title. So he’s a very good fighter.
“I knew how game and tough he was. I was covering up and taking a break and that’s why some of the rounds went against me – was keeping my hands tight and letting him blast away but he wasn’t hurting me or catching me. It’s all good experienced for me.”
The attendance at the Waterfront was small, but enthusiastic, and Barnes’ was cheered on at ringside by Carl Frampton and new IBF bantamweight world champion Ryan Burnett.
“I hurt my left hand and I heard Frampton and Ryan shouting ‘jab, jab’ but I couldn’t it was sore so I just kept flicking it out,” Barnes explained.
“It is sore and swollen and it was sore during the camp anyway but it wasn’t a big deal really.
“The reception was great and I’m glad it was tough because it will bring people back. If I’m in fights like this all the time people will want to come and see them – not like fighting them eejit journeymen – hopefully the fans come back and watch me more and more.
“It gives me great confidence because this was my first 10 rounds in my third fight against somebody who is very, very good.”
Next could be a crack at the WBO Inter-Continental title but former Olympic Games adversary Zou Shiming continues to be on his radar.
“He (Shiming) is like the Floyd Mayweather of flyweights, he is the money man so he’s the man I want to fight,” said Barnes.
“Me and Andrew Selby would be a great fight but, if I’m honest, he’s a bit further on in his career right now and he wouldn’t want to fight me yet.
“He just fought a world title eliminator but, maybe next year, it would be a great for Frampton-Lee Selby and Barnes-Andrew Selby and it would have to be in Ireland because we have the biggest fan-base.”
Round by round
Round one: Working behind a crisp jab, Barnes circled left-to-right. A right hook was his best shot in the round, while Olteanu landed nothing. 10-9
Round two: Barnes was in-and-out of the danger zone like a flash and dominated the early exchanges but Olteanu had him staggering backwards with a counter to nick the round. 9-10
Round three: After his finish to the second, Olteanu goes on the front foot but he is hurt by a straight left and Barnes takes over. 10-9
Round four: Nice skills from Barnes, moving in to land his punches and then slipping out before Olteanu can counter. 10-9
Round five: Barnes in control early on, but fades as the round progressed and Olteanu was able to fire in eye-catching hooks off both sides to stay in the fight. 9-10
Round six: Barnes guilty of ‘head-hunting’ and forgetting to target body of his 39-year-old opponent. But he nailed Olteanu was shots off both hands to take the round. 10-9
Round seven: Fast hands from Barnes on the back foot as Olteanu tried to rush in. A left hook hurt the visitor. 10-9
Round eight: Barnes stayed off the ropes and landed the cleaner shots as his opponent tried to force the pace. Olteanu warned for use of the head. 10-9
Round nine: Barnes has to stay on his feet to win. Took a solid left hook to the head but never looked in any trouble. 9-10
Round 10: Uncharted territory for Barnes. Landed early on and picked Olteanu off on the back foot. 10-9
Barnes 97 Olteanu 93