Paddy Barnes wins WBO European flyweight title
Paddy Barnes lifted the vacant WBO European flyweight title in only his third fight as a professional with a majority points decision over Romanian Silvio Olteanu at the Waterfront Hall on Saturday night.
Double Olympic bronze medallist Barnes was given the nod by two judges 97-94, 97-93, while the other had it a draw 95-95 after 10 hard paced rounds.
Barnes, who calls himself the Leprechaun, made a positive start as he found the Romanian’s body with solid pot-shots and throughout the opening three minutes smartly utilised his jab.
Normally the aggressor, Barnes was happy to allow Olteanu to take the attack to him as he countered with sharp shots to body and head. The only moment of discomfort for Barnes, to this point, came at the end of the second when he was tagged off balance and had to quickly regain his composure.
The intensity went up a level in the third with much more close quarter action. Both men were warming to the challenge, landing solid shots but the Belfast man had the better of the entertaining exchanges.
The action was relentless in the fourth as they both whipped home left and right hooks but it was Barnes who had the edge with his higher workrate – answering the single blows of the Romanian with his quick three-punch combinations.
Olteanu was clearly not your typical 39-year-old fighter as he matched Barnes punch for punch in the fifth and arguably edged it as they continued to entertain the crowd with a close quarter battle.
The sixth offered more of the same intense action with both men having the sweat spraying from their temples as they took sharp hooks in what was now a toe-to-toe slugfest.
Former World title challenger Olteanu was not allowing the Belfast man to take a breather for a second and Barnes responded to the assaults with his natural fury, pumping out punches with gritty determination and outworking his opponent.
Olteanu had gone into this clash believing his experience of many title fights would be the difference down the stretch, but there was still very little between the two in the seventh as they tested each other’s resistance by maintaining an incredible pace.
Olteanu, who probably edged the eighth, was showing no sign of fatigue in his 39-year-old legs as he persistently marched forward throwing leather as Barnes looked to cover up and counter but the ninth proved to be a clear round for the Romanian.
A left hook hurt Olteanu at the start of the final round but that only seemed to motivate him even more as he came raging back at Barnes, throwing a series of hooks. But, Barnes responded with his own relentless leather and in the last 30 seconds connected with some eye-catching clean blows.
Barnes had wanted a serious test and he certainly got it, prevailing on points and securing a top 15 ranking with the WBO.