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Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 15:30 UK

Barnes' Beijing mission

By John Haughey

Paddy Barnes
Barnes reached the last eight in the 2007 World Championships

Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes believes that he will head to the Olympics with a genuine medal chance, even though he appears to be in a tough division.

Barnes secured his Beijing berth by reaching the last eight of the World Championships in Chicago last November.

"I have improved a lot in the last year," says the light-flyweight.

"I know now that I have a great chance of getting a medal and that belief has been making me train all the harder over the last months."

As with all Olympic boxing tournaments, the draw, which will take place on 7 August, is likely to prove vital to Barnes' prospects.

The 21-year-old will hope to avoid light-flyweight hot favourite Zou Shiming, who is being tipped to win China's first ever Olympic boxing gold medal.

Zou Shiming won bronze in the 48 kilo division four years ago in Athens and has since gone on to win the 2005 and 2007 world titles.

Barnes got to see the Chinese star up close and personal in the quarter-finals of last year's World Championship in Chicago when Zou Shiming claimed a 22-8 victory.

Being on the other side of the draw to the Chinese star would be a good start for Barnes.

Indeed, the Belfast man believes that favourable draws will boost already decent medal chances for the five Irish boxing hopefuls.

Making the weight is hard and I see a dietician but it's the part that I hate
Paddy Barnes

"If people say that we (the Irish boxers) are going to bring back no medals, I would laugh at them.

"The last time Ireland had a similar squad, which was the Barcelona Olympics, we got a gold and a silver from Michael Carruth and Wayne McCullough.

"All five of us have put the effort in and we're all good enough to do well."

Barnes knows that he should have picked up a Commonwealth Games medal two years ago when he lost a big lead at half-way to suffer a one-point defeat against Swaziland's Simanga Shiba in the quarter-finals.

"But I've improved a lot since then and particularly in the last year," insists Barnes, who put his postman duties on hold to concentrate on his Olympic preparations.

"I've put in a lot of work and sacrifice. Making the weight is also hard and I see a dietician but it's the part that I hate.

"I'm disciplined about my eating but it is tough."

Barnes acknowledges that he didn't look forward to the long flight to Beijing but thankfully he got there in one piece.

"I know flying is one of the safest ways of travelling but it still scares me," he smiles.

A few family members are also making the journey to China to support Barnes and as with every major sporting event nowadays, hundred of Irish fans will doubtless materialise in Beijing.

Barnes also quips that he will be grateful for any support from the Tibetan community in Beijing if he is unlucky enough to have to take on Chinese hero Zou Shiming.

see also
Irish Olympic team is announced
10 Jul 08 |  Olympics
Team GB for Beijing
29 Nov 07 |  Team GB
Amateur boxing explained
01 Mar 06 |  Boxing
Boxing jargon guide
13 Dec 05 |  Get Involved

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