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.
Michael Conlan had to settle for bronze at the 2012 Olympics Games after losing out to Robeisy Carrazana-Ramirez in London. The Cuban flyweight was handed a 20-10 decision in tonight’s 52kg semi-final at the ExCel.
Conlan, who usually boxes orthodox started off in a southpaw, was trailing 6-3 after the first round this evening, the Cuban doing a lot of work to the body in the opening three minutes, Conlan responding with head and body shots.
The 20-year-old Belfast flyweight exploded out of his corner for the start of the second and got the better of some furious exchanges in the center of the ring
However, after Carrazana-Ramirez regained his composure from the onslaught he once again resumed picking up neat points to open up a 10-6 advantage going into the interval.
Conlan found himself on the ropes after being tagged with a big right in the final frame.
Carrazana-Ramirez followed up like a flash, and, with the Irish Elite champion on the rigging, picked up at least four points from head and body shots.
The St John Bosco BC man found the target with two good lefts in the last minute, but nothing less than a KO would have done at this stage and the Cuban saw out the round to victory.
Speaking after his defeat, an emotional Conlan, who has done Ireland proud at London 2012, admitted that he was devastated. “He was on form on the day. He threw some good shots and I wasn’t coming back with my counters, he said.
“I’m really devastated. It is a big learning experience for me. This just shows me where I’m at. Getting to the Olympic semi-finals, it has been good for me.
“I was beaten by the better man. He was just too sharp for me tonight. I’m proud of myself. I’m happy where I got.”
Meanwhile, John Joe Nevin, who was the first Irish boxer into the ring at these Olympics, will be the last Irish boxer out of the squared circle tomorrow evening.
The Cavan BC bantamweight meets Great Britain’s Luke Campbell (St Paul’s ABC, Hull) in the 2012 Olympic 56kg final.