Tickets to Rio for Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan

Ireland’s London 2012 bronze medallists Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes secured quota places for the Rio 2016 Olympics after recording dramatic wins in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) in Venezuela on Saturday.

Tickets to Rio for Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan

The Belfast duo, boxing for Italia Thunder v Venezuela in the WSB, punched their tickets for the 31st Olympiad on a tense night for Irish boxing at the Estadio Polideportivo venue in Maiquetía.

Barnes beat Finol Rivas on a split decision (49-45, 49-45, 47-48) to earn the four points he needed to finish on top of the light-flyweight table ahead of Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov.

The two-time Olympic bronze medallist has won all seven of his WSB fights for Italia Thunder this season, amassing 34 points, one less than a maximum return after earning five unanimous decisions, one split decision and a TKO.

Barnes has fought the best part of 34 rounds in his seven WSB fights since January 17.

To put that in context, his ex-Irish team-mates, current IBF and WBO world pro champions Carl Frampton and Andy Lee, have boxed 35 rounds between them in four fights since last September.

Barnes admitted that Rivas was a tough test in front of his own fans.

“I was getting in the cleaner shots. He had nothing to lose and he wanted to put on a good show and prove himself against one of the best boxers in the world,” said Barnes.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable, but the heat was unbelievable.

“It was so, so warm. It will probably sink in tomorrow. I’m No.1 in the world in the WSB. I’m proud of that.”

Conlan needed to beat Jose Diaz and for Azerbaijan’s Magomed Gurbanov to lose away to Puerto Rico’s Hector Garcia on Saturday to secure one of the top two Olympic places for bantams, along with Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin.

Conlan kept his side of the bargain on a unanimous decision — 49-46 across the board — and Garcia shocked Gurbanov in San Juan on a unanimous verdict.

“It was a long shot that Gurbanov would lose. I’m over the moon, can’t believe it. I’ll take a break now for a while, but I’ll keep an eye on the weight. My aim this year is the keep active, said Conlan.

“I’m coming into my prime as an amateur. I’ll be 24 in Rio. I’ll be winning gold in Rio, one hundred per cent!”

Billy Walsh and John Conlan, father to Michael, were working the Irish corners in Venezuela.

“This far out it’s fantastic to have two medallist from London (2012) qualified for the Rio Olympics. Michael was up against it and we needed a bit of luck along the way, said Walsh.

“The pressure was on Paddy.

“His main opponent in the rankings moved from number two position to number one overnight and Paddy had to perform, which he did in front of over three thousand people in a very partisan atmosphere.

“It was a fantastic atmosphere, but obviously all for them. Paddy and Michael were fantastic against quality opponents.”

The Irish squad are due to arrive home via Dublin airport at 12 noon today.

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