Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes is out to silence the Turks and exact some revenge for the injustice done to Joe Ward while welterweight Adam Nolan and heavyweight Tommy McCarthy are pursuing the London 2012 dream.
“It has been a roller coaster ride as regards emotions as sport — and boxing in particular — always is,” Irish coach Billy Walsh reflected.
“You come out of one fight and you are ecstatic and you come out of the next one in a state of depression. It’s been a tough week but overall it’s been good.”
He admitted the dreadful decision that dumped Ward, one of the gold medal favourites for the London Olympics, out of the tournament last Monday was a disaster waiting to happen in a country desperate to qualify their men for the Olympic Games but added he was proud of all his boxers.
“One thing we ask of the team is to leave everything behind them and have no regrets and all of them gave 100%,” he said. “We took away the distractions and controlled what we could control and that was mostly our performances. That’s part of our psychology.
“We have been away a long time — a long time on the road — but it has been rewarding for the squad. We have been to some of the most hostile places on the planet. You would not be thinking about going back to any of them on your holidays. Every shithole in the world. But it’s part and parcel of the game. We don’t go for the scenery. We don’t go for the hotels. We don’t go there for the shopping. We go there to train and spar and test ourselves against the best in the world.”
Paddy Barnes’ eagerness to progress in the tournament, even after Olympic qualification, epitomises the spirit that is rampant throughout the squad.
“Paddy was our big target for qualification out here along with Joe [Ward] and we felt David Oliver Joyce also had a good chance,” Walsh pointed out. “We all know what happened to Joe and Davy gave it his all yesterday and we could not expect any more of him against a very good young opponent.”
Barnes may have won a bronze medal in Beijing but he is still very much a work in progress at the moment.
“There is a lot more in him,” he said. “Technically there is a lot more in him. He has a massive amount of courage and conditioning and we just have to improve some technical areas that will make the difference for him when he gets to London.
“There has been a lapse of learning and evolvement. If you stay where you are everybody else is evolving and catching up and this happened on a couple of occasions with Paddy. But he is on the right route to London.”
On Wednesday he beat Stefan Caslarov from Romania by eight points and today he will meet Ferhat Pehlivan [Turkey] for a place in the final. “I have qualified for another Olympics now and, hopefully, a medal of a better colour,” Barnes said.
“I am meeting a Turk and I am looking forward to that — shut that crowd up.” Walsh has a special affection for Adam Nolan. The Wexford-born garda began his career under him and he also coached his brother, Darren, to a national title while their father, John, was Walsh’s biggest fan following him to the National Stadium for all his fights.
“When he went to Dublin his father asked me what club he should join and I sent him to Pete Taylor in Bray and he has done a great job with him.
“He has nine minutes to qualify because if he beats the Romanian, Ionut Ghorghe, he will go to London. I know he is in against a very experienced opponent who beat John Joe Joyce at light welterweight at the qualifying tournament in Pescara four years ago but he is improving all the time and has the talent to win.”
McCarthy won a bronze medal at the world junior championships in Mexico four years ago when Ray Moylette won a gold medal. He followed up with a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games but the 21-year-old Belfast heavyweight did not win a national senior title until this year after losses to Kenny Egan and Connie Sheehan.
To qualify for London he will have to win the gold medal here and he feels confident he can do that. After a controlled performance on Tuesday he turned in a power-packed display to defeat Jozsef Darmos (Hungary) and now meets Vladimir Cheles (Muldova), who lost to Egan last year.
“Tommy has been growing in confidence since winning the national senior title,” Walsh said. “He is only 21 but he has a lot of class and he is improving all the time. He is already talking about Rio in four years’ time and that’s good to hear.”
Egan, who returned to light heavyweight this year, may be regretting that move as he has beaten three of the boxers still left in the heavyweight division in Trabzon.