Barnes and Conlan seal spots for Games

Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan
Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan

Belfast’s Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan have qualified to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after recording victories at the World Series of Boxing in Maiquetia in Venezuela on Saturday night.

Barnes - who picked-up bronze at the last two Olympic Games, prevailed on a split decision against Finol Rivas in the light-flyweight to stretch his unbeaten run in the event to seven bouts.

The judges scored the fight 49-45, 47-48, 49-45 in favour of the 28-year-old.

Bantamweight Conlanm - who also won bronze at London 2012 - had an unanimous points victory (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) over Jose Diaz.

Both fighterswere Italia Thunder’s only winners on the night, with Venezuela winning the tie 3-2.

Barnes had been briefly usurped at the head of the light-flyweight table by Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov on Friday, but knew that he would regain top spot with victory against Rivas.

Conlan’s automatic qualification hopes were far more precarious as he to rely on on Puerto Rican underdog Hector Garcia defeating Azerbaijan’s Magomed Gurbanov, as well as recording a victory of his own.

However, Garcia upset the odds with a comprehensive success, knocking Gurbanov to the floor in the fifth round before triumphing on a unanimous decision.

Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin ensured he topped the division after accounting for Ukraine’s Omurbek Malabekov on Friday night.

Billy Walsh, who was working the Ireland corner in with Conlan’s father John, said: “We’re absolutely delighted. Paddy and Michael have been magnificent this season, as have all our boxers in the WSB, and we’re delighted to have qualified two for the Olympics Games.

“Itw as a great performance from the lads and they deserve this because they have worked so hard to get themselves into this position.

“But they know there is more work to be done before Rio 2016,”