John Joe Nevin is through to the 2012 Olympic bantamweight final after producing an absolute masterclass against Cuban southpaw Lazaro Estrada-Alvarez in London this afternoon.
But Belfast braveheart Paddy Barnes bowed out after bringing China’s Zou Shiming, the current Olympic and AIBA World champion, all the way down to the wire and beyond at the ExCel.
Nevin showed his class to register a 19-14 decision over Estrada-Alvarez. The current AIBA World champion and number one seed just had no answer to the silky skills of the Irish Elite champion.
“Keep doing what your doing. Don’t switch off,” was the advice from Irish head coach Billy Walsh in the corner after Nevin snapped home some stunning shots to take the first frame 5-3 against the tricky southpaw.
Estrada-Alvarez’s longer reach and raking left were posing problems, however, and the Cuban found the target in a neutral corner mid-way through the second, but Nevin, occasionally switching from orthodox to southpaw, flashed in some slick shots of his own to stretch his lead to 12-9 by the bell.
Nevin, who found some time for a cheeky “Mullingar shuffle” in the third, rocked the Cuban with two big rights in the final three minutes. An uppercut also went flying in as the Mullingar stylist secured at least a silver medal for Ireland at London 2012.
He’ll now meet Great Britain’s Luke Campbell in Saturday’s 56kg final. The duel is a repeat of the 2011 AIBA World Championships semi-final which the English bantamweight, who boxes out of the St Paul’s ABC in Hull, won on a countback following a 12-12 tie in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Campbell, who was beaten 13-2 by Nevin in the 2009 EU Championships in Denmark, lost 14-10 to Estrada-Alvarez in the final in Baku.
“I’ve over the moon with the win. We knew it was going to be a tough one going in, said Nevin, who is coached by Brian McKeown at the Cavan BC, after today’s victory.
“I just seem to be getting better as I go along. I’m enjoying the whole experience. I’m not worried and I’m not putting myself under pressure.”
“Within a half an hour we’ve went from despair to joy. Paddy gave a heroic performance and he was very unlucky to go out and John gave a masterclass, absolutely brilliant,” added Billy Walsh, who was working Ireland’s corner along with Zuar Antia today.
Shortly before Nevin stepped into the ring to give the current AIBA World champion a lesson in the finer arts of boxing, Barnes produced the performance of a lifetime against China’s Zou Shiming, the reigning Olympic and AIBA World champion.
But Barnes, who came storming back after losing the first round, agonisingly lost out on a countback following a 15-15 stalemate.
In the event of a tie, bouts are decided by eliminating the highest and lowest scores of the five judges and totting up the scores from the remaining three.
Shiming was awarded a 15-0 decision in the 2008 Olympic semi-final in Beijing, a margin of victory that Barnes has always, correctly, disputed, although there was no disputing that the Chinese ace won the Beijing clash.
However, the defending Olympic champion was a relieved man getting out of the ring following today’s rematch as he was subjected to a torrid final two rounds from the Ulsterman.
Barnes, stalking Shiming all over the ring, took the final frame by three points.The second stanza finished even at 3-3, while Shiming won the first 8-5.
But when it went back to a countback Shiming was handed 45-44 decision. Shiming held Barnes’ hand aloft at the end of an epic encounter.
It couldn’t have been any closer and it was a truly heroic display from the Belfast man – who guaranteed himself at least a bronze by virtue of reaching the last-four – against arguably the best light-flyweight on the planet.
Barnes is now the third Irish boxer to suffer the agony of going out of the Olympic Games on a countback after John Joe Joyce (2008) and Andy Lee (2004).
However, Barnes can take a lot of consolation from the fact that he will be coming home from the 2012 Games as the only Irish boxer in the 101-year history of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association to win two Olympic medals.
Speaking after the fight, the Irish Elite champion sportingly wished his opponent well in the final.
“He’s very elusive, very hard to pin down. The best of luck to him in the final. The first round cost me the fight. I gave it everything.” said the 2010 European and Commonwealth champion.
“Paddy gave it his all against a world class opponent and he can be very proud.John was magnificent. It was a brilliant display,” added Stephen Connolly (IABA) from ringside at the ExCel.
Meanwhile, Belfast flyweight Michael Conlan will be in action tonight as Ireland go in search of a double over the mighty Cuba.
Irish boxing will be taking home at least one gold, one silver and two bronze medals from the 30th Olympiad – and one Best Female Boxer of the Games Award.
It is our best ever Olympic haul in boxing since Ireland independently entered the 1924 Olympiad in Paris, thirteen years after the Irish Amateur Boxing Association was founded in 1911.
2012 Olympic Games
July 28th – Last 32
56kg – Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) beat Dennis Villy Ceylan (Denmark) 21-6
75kg – Middleweight – Darren O’Neill (Ireland) beat Muideen Olalekan Akanji (Nigeria) 15-6
July 29th – Last 32
69kg – Welterweight – Adam Nolan (Ireland) beat Carlos Sanchez Estacio (Ecuador) 14-8
August 1st – Last 16
56kg – Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) beat Kanat Abutalipov (Kazakhstan) 15-10
August 2nd – Last 16
75kg – Middleweight – Darren O’Neill (Ireland) lost to Stefan Hartel (Germany) 12-19
August 3rd – Last 16
52kg – Flyweight – Michael Conlan (Ireland) beat Duke Akeuth Micah (Ghana) 19-8
69kg – Welterweight – Adam Nolan (Ireland) lost to Andrey Zamkovoy (Russia) 9-18
August 4th – Last 16
49kg – Light-flyweight – Paddy Barnes (Ireland) beat Thomas Essomba (Cameroon) 15-10
August 5th – Quarter- final
56kg – Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) beat Oscar Valdez-Fierro (Mexico) 19-13
August 6th – Quarter-final
60kg – Lightweight – Katie Taylor (Ireland) beat Natasha Jonas (Great Britain) 26-15
August 7th – Quarter-final
52kg – Flyweight – Michael Conlan (Ireland) beat Nordine Ouballi (France) 22-18
August 8th – Semi-final
60kg – Lightweight – Katie Taylor (Ireland) beat Mavzuna Chorieva (Tajikistan) 17-9
August 8th – Quarter-final
49kg – Light-flyweight – Paddy Barnes (Ireland) beat Devendro Singh Laishram (India) 23-18
August 9th – Final (4.30pm session)
60kg – Lightweight- Katie Taylor (Ireland) beat Sofya Ochigava (Russia) 10-8
August 10th- Semi-Finals
August 10th – Semi-Finals
49kg – Flyweight- Paddy Barnes (Ireland) lost to Zou Shiming (China) 15-15 c/b 44-45
56kg – Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) beat Lazara Alvarez (Cuba) 19-14
August 10th – Semi-Finals (8.30pm session)
52kg – Flyweight – Michael Conlan (Ireland) v Robeisy Carrazana-Ramirez (Cuba)
August 11th – Final – (8.30pm) session
54kg: Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) v Luke Campbell (Great Britain)
Irish 2012 Olympic squad
49Kg (Light-flyweight) Paddy Barnes (Holy Family BC, Belfast)
52kg (Flyweight) Michael Conlan (St John Bosco BC, Belfast)
56kg (Bantamweight) John Joe Nevin (Cavan BC)
60kg (Lghtweight) Katie Taylor (Bray BC, Wicklow)
69kg (Welterweight) Adam Nolan (Bray BC, Wicklow)
75kg (Middleweight) Darren O’Neill (Paulstown BC, Kilkenny)
Team Manager: Des Donnelly
Coaches: Billy Walsh, Zuar Antia, Pete Taylor
Physio: Conor McCarthy
Strength & Conditioning: John Cleary
Performance Psychologist: Gerry Hussey