Shiming Zou, Zou Shiming — call him whichever you like — has been a major thorn in the side of Barnes since the World Championships in Chicago in 2007 when he knocked him out at the quarter-final stage 22-8.
Barnes was not too upset. After all, he had qualified for the Beijing Olympics by making the last eight and Zou was rated one of the best light flyweights of all time.
Barnes, however, found the 15-0 defeat in the semi-finals in Beijing hard to swallow because everyone in the arena knew that he had scored at least six, if not seven, points in that fight.
Afterwards, Barnes was telling them to go shove their medal — “bronze medals are just for losers,” he said.
That all changed when he returned to Ireland and found that he was something of a national hero.
He made history on Wednesday night in the ExCeL Arena when he defeated Davendro Singh Laishram in his quarter-final fight because he became the first Irish boxer to win two Olympic medals. But his focus was on this afternoon’s semi-final, in which he intends to settle some old scores.
Zou remains China’s most decorated boxer of all time — three world titles and an Olympic gold medal — but at 31 he is showing signs of wear and tear. The young Cuban, Yosbany Veitia, made life difficult for him in their last-16 bout — he conceded a walkover to Veitia in Debrecen, Hungary earlier in the year.
And the judges were more than generous to him when he out-pointed Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan on Wednesday. That result may not augur well for Barnes.
“It’s a tough one, it’s a tough one but Paddy’s in good spirits,” high performance coach Billy Walsh said. “He’s achieved something that no other boxer in Irish history has ever achieved — he’s a double medallist. He wants to make history and he wants to be known and he’s done that now.
“He has a very difficult opponent but I don’t think he’s as good as he was four years ago. In saying that, he’s been world champion since.
“It will be tough but Paddy will give everything. He’s in good form, his defence is very, very tight. He’s hard to break down. He’s got four years’ experience. So has his opponent but this time around he’s used to being in finals and semi-finals
“We expect him to move and Paddy to be chasing, to try and close him down and get into Paddy’s range of fighting and try to score from there.
“Paddy’s focus is really good from, I suppose, the shock of not qualifying in Baku. It spurred him, gave him a kick up the backside. We sat down and had a few harsh words, pulled him back, told him where we needed to go and he’s improved since then.
“There was that thing of keeping him on funding but that’s the nature of the system. It’s been like that since its inception. In fairness to the Sports Council, without them none of this would have happened and we wouldn’t have lads in full-time training. They can give the commitment and live a half-decent life and prepare full-time, not to be doing jobs or part-time boxing which is never going to qualify you and get you medals at this level.
“Obviously he lost the fight in Beijing — there were no qualms about the decision. Just for his own pride he needed to have something on the scoreboard and without a doubt he scored five or six clean shots for me — but we’re on this side of the world now.
“It would be nice to see the shoe on the other foot and we get the support and Zou Shiming is complaining about scoring.”