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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 5 June, 2020

No sugarcoating the shock as Barnes takes Olympic exit on the chin

Weight comes back to haunt Ireland’s team captain as he crashes out in the last 16.

Samuel Carmona Heredia is declared the winner Barnes: stunned by Carmona in the last 16. Source: Dan Sheridan

– Niall Kelly reports from Riocentro, Rio de Janiero

“IF YOU CAN meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…”

In defeat, as in victory, Paddy Barnes shot from the hip. There was no attempt to sugarcoat the shock or to suggest that if he, rather than Samuel Carmona, had got the nod from the judges in that decisive final round it would have been full steam ahead for a third Olympic medal.

“I am actually happy that he got the decision,” Barnes said with a tip of the cap to the young Spaniard who had just announced himself by dumping one of the light-flyweight division’s top contenders out of the competition.

The next fight, I wouldn’t have lasted like this. I would have been embarrassed and made a fool of myself.

The problems were evident from the first round. The Belfast boxer, who battled a chest infection in the run-up to Rio, was already gassing, exhausted as he tried to dodge Carmona’s attacks and respond in kind.

When he sat down on his stool at the end of the second, the scores level at 19-19 on all three cards, the reserves were spent as well.

Paddy Barnes with Samuel Carmona Heredia Source: Dan Sheridan

Shedding nine kilos in seven weeks to get down from his natural bodyweight — at 58kg, he’s big for a light-flyweight — proved to be too much of an ask this time around.

The struggle was nothing new. Barnes won both of his Olympic bronzes at the weight but hasn’t fought there competitively since he won Commonwealth Games gold in 2014.

It was a risk he knew he was taking when he signed up to the 49kg division of the World Series of Boxing in the hope of securing his Olympic place as quickly as possible.

He did that back in August 2015 but revealed today that he couldn’t even make the weight for those WSB bouts, and that his Italia Thunder franchise were fined on multiple occasions as a result.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it myself but I pushed that hard because it was the Olympic Games.

“Actually, qualifying for these I didn’t make the weight. We (Italia Thunder) had to pay a fine because I was over the weight every time.”

“I felt good going into the ring, but at the end of the first round, my energy was completely gone. I had nothing to give.

I don’t know how I threw as many punches as I did in the second and third rounds. I don’t know where they came from because I was so weak.

“It’s my biggest battle,” he added. “In there is easy, but making the weight behind the scenes, people don’t understand how hard it is.”

Paddy Barnes gives a thumbs up to supporters after the fight Source: Dan Sheridan

While coach John Conlan answered a few questions of his own, Barnes waited to one side, a few steps away from the man who had just ended his Olympic dream.

When Carmona finished speaking to a Spanish journalist, there was an embrace and a few words before the two stood arm in arm for a photo, away from the eyes of the Riocentro crowd. A thumbs-up from Barnes, nothing but respect for the better man on the day.

In the immediate aftermath Barnes was reluctant to say too much on his future, except to stress that he will never fight at light-fly again. Turning professional is one option; another crack at history in Tokyo in four years’ time, when he will be 33, seems less likely.

And if this is to be the end of Paddy Barnes’ glorious Olympic career, you certainly can’t accuse him of squandering the opportunity. He leaves behind his record as only the second Irish man to medal at successive Games — as well as a selfie-laden Twitter feed, something that Pat O’Callaghan didn’t entertain us with in 1928 and 1932.

His critics would do well to remember how few characters modern sport can offer us, how many athletes have been reduced to bland stereotypes. The slick skills, straight talking, and sharp wit are all part of the same package; a sportsman who literally wears the five Olympic rings on his chest. In for a penny, in for a pound.

“The fact some of you idiots on (Twitter) are giving Paddy Barnes stick is fucking disgraceful,” partner-in-crime Michael Conlan tweeted after watching from ringside.

What he’s done for the country is unbelievable.

Ireland’s first boxing defeat of the 2016 Games was the one that none of us expected. You can be sure that nobody is hurting more than Paddy Barnes tonight.

The42 is on Snapchat! Tap the button below on your phone to add!

Reaction from Rio: ‘He’s probably been our most successful boxer. I’m gutted for him and his family’

‘The fact some of you idiots are on here giving Paddy Barnes stick is f*****g disgraceful’

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Niall Kelly

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