19 August 2008 – by Mark Doyle
Light-flyweight Paddy Barnes guaranteed Ireland its first Olympic boxing medal since the 1992 Games in Barcelona with a quite brilliant 11-5 victory over Lukasz Maszczyk in Beijing on Tuesday.
The pair were locked at 2-2 after a very tight opening round but Barnes, working beautifully on the inside, took command of the fight in the second and ended it two points to the good.
Barnes continued to dominate in the third, scoring with strong left hooks and stright rights whilst also giving Maszczyk absolutely nothing to aim at.
Indeed, Maszczyk failed to register a single point in the second half of the fight and, after being left bitterly frustrated by Barnes’ constant pressure and watertight defence, actually decided to walk back to his corner before the final bell had sounded.
While there was numbing disappointment for Maszczyk, there was unbridled joy for Barnes.
The Belfast man is now assured of at least a bronze medal but, after reaching the semi-finals with two mightily impressive performances, he looks more than capable of going all the way.
However, for a shot at gold Barnes will have to overcome the man who ended his World Championships hopes last year, Shiming Zou, who defeated Birzhan Zhakypov 9-4 in the following bout.
Zou will go into bout, scheduled for Friday at 12:00 (Irish Time), as the favourite, not least because he will be fighting in front of a partisan home crowd, but it remains to seen if the slick and elusive Chinese fighter still has the measure of the ever-improving Barnes.