Wedding bells will chime for Paddy Barnes next month, meaning the three-time Olympian will rest until September after the final bell rang on his first professional title success last Saturday night.
The three-time Olympian claimed the WBO European flyweight belt in his native Belfast with a majority points decision over Madrid-based Romanian Silvio Olteanu at the Waterfront Hall.
That continental stepping-stone title will move the undefeated 30-year-old (now 3-0) into the WBO’s top 15 rankings, meaning he will soon be eligible to fight for that governing body’s world title should the opportunity arise.
That WBO champion is Zou Shiming – China’s double Olympic champion, who defeated Barnes in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 semi-finals – and the Irishman has stated that his ultimate ambition is to fight his old Olympic rival within 10 professional bouts.
“It’s still on – believe it,” said Barnes of his grand plans, which will be temporarily postponed over the summer as the 30-year-old is due to marry fiancé Mari next month. “I’m not too sure when I’ll be back out… I’d say it’ll be September in Belfast again,” continued the Matthew Macklin-managed fighter.
“I’ll fight anywhere. Obviously, I love fighting in Belfast but I’d love to fight in England on a few big shows too,” added Barnes.
Though Olteanu is 39 years old, the Romanian – who carried a 16-11-1 record into the bout, coming off the back of two losses – presented a tough challenge for the home favourite at such a relatively early stage of his pro career. Former European champion and world-title challenger Olteanu produced an energetic display that belied his age, landing a number of clean shots on Barnes.
“It was a hard fight, I’m not going to lie,” said the Belfast man. “He hit me a few times with a few shots, but I was able to deal with it and deal with the pressure. I’m happy that I got 10 rounds under my belt against a hard fighter,” added the 30-year-old, who was competing over that distance for the first time, having previously boxed a maximum of five rounds in AIBA’s ‘semi-pro’ style World Series of Boxing.
“It was in my head that it was a long way to go and he was charging forward, but when I had my hands up and was standing there, he couldn’t hurt me.”
Judges Phil Edwards (97-94) and Zoltan Enyedi (97-93) scored the right for Barnes, with Olteana’s Romanian compatriot Mihai Leu calling it a 95-95 draw.
Olteana, who made a mockery of some bookies’ lop-sided 1/100 pre-fight odds for Barnes, said: “It’s not the toughest fight I’ve had… But if he [Barnes] has good management and a good promoter he could go far.”
After just three fights since turning pro last November, Barnes’ trainer Danny Vaughan was enthused.
“I’d give him a seven out of 10 for the performance,” said Vaughan. “He took a fight of this magnitude in his third fight when he could be like everybody else, getting a padded record… He showed a lot of balls.”
Another Rio Olympian, David Oliver Joyce, made an impressive pro debut on the undercard, stopping Hungarian Gabor Kovacs in just two rounds.
Undefeated Dublin super-featherweight Jono Carroll won the fight of the night, claiming a split-decision points victory after putting fellow southpaw Johnny Quigley on the canvas twice in the second round.
Dublin lightweight Stephen Ormond was also dropped twice - in the final round of his WBO European lightweight bout, losing a unanimous decision to Wales’ Craig Evans.
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