If stars are going to be born in these Olympic Games, especially in the boxing competition, the guys who are riding the wave of “local,” friendly fans may have an edge.
One of those competitors is Paddy Barnes, who represents Ireland and thus has an awful lot of backing from people who haven’t had to travel all that far to see him at the ExCeL Centre in London.
Barnes was the bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics, and he has a legitimate chance to once again get to the medal round after he took care of business in a lively Saturday fight against Cameroon’s Thomas Essomba, moving on by a score of 15-10.
Barnes got off to a quick lead, and it was clear to fans who had never seen him before that he is a crafty boxer-puncher with a lot of ring savvy. He made it very difficult for the combative Essomba to catch up in the final round.
This was obviously not a bad win for Barnes, since Essomba was ranked #4 in the world by AIBA coming into the tournament. But it’s not as if he needed to boost his own credentials.
In 2007 Barnes fought well with three wins before getting beaten rather decisively (22-8) by eventual Olympic gold medalist Shiming Zou. The next year he represented Ireland in the Olympics and advanced to the semifinal, and seemed to leave no doubt that he did not an edge, stylistically or otherwise, against Zou, who scored a 15-0 shutout.
Barnes has bounced back since then to win the gold at the 2010 European Amateur Championships and the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Of course, it’s just his luck that if he gets by his next bout on Wednesday against India’s Devendro Singh Laishram, it’s quite likely he’ll be going head-to-head against Zou again, because the #1 seed is on his side of the draw.
In the area of sheer creativity, however, Barnes may have already won the gold.
He certainly has seized the opportunity to take in the entire Olympic experience.
For example, he’s in a flat-out competition with boxing teammate Michael Conlan to gather the most autographs and pictures with athletes in the Village.
And he’s gotten innovative.
As he was getting his hand raised by the referee for his good work in Saturday’s contest, he was sending a message out to his Twitter following:
“Job done from the Olympic ring. Paddy Barnes. Bringing you closer to the action.” the next message, a couple of minutes later, said:
“Think I’m the first boxer to tweet from inside (the) ring.”
Maybe he is. And if you want to follow Barnes’ exploits in and around London, you can do so at his Twitter page (https://twitter.com/paddyb_ireland), which you’ll recognize by the picture of him with Liam Neeson at the top.