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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 24 May, 2019

Paddy Barnes takes WBO European flyweight title in just his third professional bout

Barnes now claims a top-15 ranking after a majority decision result in Belfast.

Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

PADDY BARNES HAS won the first professional title of his career in just his third outing after a majority decision win versus Romanian Silvio Olteanu at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.

In victory the hometown hero captured the WBO European flyweight title, but more pertinently, a top-15 ranking with the WBO. Barnes is now 3-0 as a professional.

M.O.P.’s Ante Up was the entrance song of choice for Barnes’ Madrid-based opponent, but it was the two-time Olympic bronze medalist who raised his game from an underwhelming first two outings as a professional. Barnes cut the figure of a fighter far more locked in than perhaps was necessary versus two journeymen opponents, and he quickly went to work behind a sharp jab in the opening round.

Round two, and a scare; the Belfast faithful gasped as Barnes stumbled backwards after a sharp counter from his opponent. It was merely a loss of footing, but the 30-year-old emerged like a man scorned in the third, peppering Olteanu with head and body combinations while smothering most of the former world title challenger’s best efforts.

Paddy Barnes in action against Silvio Olteanu Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Vociferously roared on at ringside by stand-in BoxNation pundit Jamie Conlan on one side, and former world champion Carl Frampton on the other, Barnes in his leprechaun clobber exuded more class in the fourth, shipping shots aplenty but marching Olteanu backwards with flurries thrown through gritted teeth. He stood up well to a whopping Olteanu counter amongst other solid shots in the fifth before finishing strongly.

By the turn of the fight, Barnes had began to impose his will, exuding class with a variety of head-snapping one-twos and ear-clapping four-punch flurries, but his defence was extremely porous. That being said, nervy moments with his back to the ropes were swiftly ended with fleet footwork and solid shot selection when under fire.

Sensing the fight was slipping away from him, Olteanu pushed the agenda in the penultimate round as Barnes spent the majority of it on the retreat. The Romanian took it handily, and tension in the arena grew.

The crowd erupted at the start of the final stanza as Barnes had his teak tough opponent reeling, but despite the hometown fighter’s best efforts, the final bell sounded. The words ‘majority decision’ sent a shockwave through the amphitheatre, and Barnes too cut a worried figure as Belfast awaited the result.

Barnes go it on scores of 97-93, 97-94 and 95-95, and deservedly so, but will need to improve if he’s to make good on his proclamation that he can challenge for world honours.

Paddy Barnes in action against Silvio Olteanu Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

His arrival as a professional was a lot more high-profile than his arrival at Belfast’s Waterfront earlier this evening; Barnes nonchalantly strolled into the foyer of the arena near half-past seven, gearbag swinging from his shoulder, and meandered his way through the swathes of pint-getters and chatters as if he were a member of staff. It was only when he began to climb the Waterfront’s staircase towards his dressing room that fans recognised him and produced an unholy noise from below. Barnes appeased them with a couple of casual fist-bumps before disappearing to prepare for the task at hand.

Four hours later he put himself and his hoards of followers through hell, but we knew as soon as he turned professional that there would be few dull moments.

Earlier on the card, Dublin’s Stephen Ormond was dropped twice in the final seconds of a messy scrap with Wales’ Craig Evans, missing out on his chance to regain the lightweight edition of Barnes’ WBO European belt. The three judges scored the fight 97-91, 99-89 and 96-93 respectively as Ormond fell to 24-4, having previously held the belt between 2013 and 2014. Now 34, one suspects Ormond might draw the curtain on a fine career following what was a debilitating but gallant defeat.

‘The Rock’s former Celtic Warrior stablemate Jono Carroll, however, is on the opposite trajectory.

The 25-year-old won Ireland’s first European title of the night, capturing the IBF version in a scintillating 12-round back-and-forth with undefeated Liverpudlian Johnny Quigley. ‘King Kong’ dropped the former British youth star twice in the second stanza en route to a split decision victory, with two judges scoring 115-111 in favour of the Dunshaughlin native, and another 114-113 to Quigley.

2016 Olympian David Oliver Joyce oozed class as he dismantled Gabor Kovacs with aplomb on his professional debut, proving himself leagues above the Hungarian with a stylish second-round TKO.

20-year-old hometown sensation Lewis Crocker scored a stunning second-round stoppage of Radoslav Mitev. On a night where Belfast world champions former and current in Carl Frampton and Ryan Burnett were sat ringside, Crocker’s thudding left hook to close the show was testament to why many – including Frampton himself – have tipped ‘The Croc’ to reach the pinnacle of his craft.

Belfast boys Tyrone McKenna and Steven Ward also scored stoppage wins in stay-busy fights, while Derry’s Sean McGlinchey, trained by former world champion and Sky Sports pundit Glenn McCrory, won his second pro fight via unanimous decision over Trowbridge’s Dan Blackwell.

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