Barnes, however, now joins fellow Belfast man Michael Conlan, double world bronze medallist John Joe Nevin and Darren O’Neill from Paulstown in the Olympic tournament.
This win was emphatic, but it was not plain sailing for Barnes who had to survive a punishing body shot early in the contest to keep his Olympic dream on track. He came back to win the round 5-3, took the second 7-3 and he coasted the third.
“I was very nervous — there was a lot of stake in there,” he said. “I got caught with a couple of early shots. The first shot — a body shot — and, I tell you what, I couldn’t even breathe. But I soaked it up and I hurt him with my body shots too so he backed off a bit.
“I hit him with a lot of body shots in the second round and I could see he was tiring. I should have pressed on and stopped him, but I didn’t. I was just happy to win. In the third round he was holding on for dear life.
“I have qualified for another Olympics now and, hopefully, a medal of a better colour. I think I can win a gold medal in this tournament too. I am meeting a Turk next and I am looking forward to that — shut that crowd up. I didn’t perform at my best today because I was so nervous — because I knew what was at stake. But a win’s a win and the pressure’s off now that I’ve qualified for the Olympics.
Coach Billy Walsh said Barnes had made huge improvement in his form in the lead-up to this tournament. “We are still struggling a little bit with performance, but his performance tonight was good enough to get him to London. I think there is another 50% in him,” said Walsh.
Today is a rest day so tomorrow he meets Ferhat Pehlivan (Turkey) for a place in the final. The Turk beat Hamza Touba (Germany) 15-7 in their quarter-final.
Adam Nolan can provide the perfect ending to the fairytale tomorrow if he can defeat Ionut Ghorghe (Romania) in the welterweight semi-final to qualify for London 2012.
The garda who boxes out of Katie Taylor’s Bray club will become the second Wexford man after Irish coach Billy Walsh to get to the Olympics if he succeeds in getting to the final.
Yesterday Nolan beat Tamerlan Abdullayev (Azerbaijan) 17-13 in an all-action welterweight contest. He laid the foundation in the first round, which he won 6-3.
Billy Walsh admitted he may have made a mistake telling Nolan he was leading by three points at the end of the round as he took his foot off the pedal, and Abdullayev won the second 8-6.
“I took my foot off the gas a bit in the second,” Nolan said. “Billy told me I was only one up so I had to kick on.”
He now faces Romanian, Ionut Ghorghe, who beat John Joe Joyce in the Olympic qualifier in Pescara four years ago. But the Mullingar man went on to win a gold medal at the final qualifying tournament in Athens.
Tommy McCarthy had a bruising battle with Jozsef Darmos (Hungary) for his second victory. After winning the opening round 3-1 he took a standing count from a big left hand behind the ear in the second but the Hungarian was handed a public warning for spoiling as he went for the knockout and McCarthy won the round 8-2 for an eight-point cushion going into the final round.
“As the opponents get better, my performances get better,” McCarthy insisted. “Tonight I was in with a tougher opponent, he was a very strong, tough Hungarian with a few medals from the Europeans and stuff. I had to up my game and I did and I ended up winning comfortably.
“It was a tough fight, but I won by a good margin. He caught me with a big dirty haymaker left behind the ear. The referee ended up giving me a count, but, I didn’t mind. It was an extra breather for me.
“My jab was my best punch and I think it frustrated him big time. It was very fast as well for my weight and size so a lot of heavyweights are going to struggle with it.”
Tomorrow he meets Vladimir Cheles (Muldova), who inflicted a rare 21-13 defeat on Turkey’s, Umjit Patir, last night.
There was disappointment for David Oliver Joyce yesterday as he lost a tough toe-to-toe lightweight battle with Evaldas Petrauskas (Lithuania) 19-10.
“You couldn’t ask any more from David Oliver,” Billy Walsh said. “All we ask of our lads is that they give everything they can and they leave everything in the ring and David Oliver left everything in the ring today.”