Barriga bows out of OlympicsBy Artemio T. Engracia
Inquirer News Editor
LONDON—Mark Barriga’s brief run in the Olympic Games ended on the canvas on Saturday when he lost a heartbreaking 16-17 decision to Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov.
It was close, but it was the referee who decided the match when he penalized Barriga for headbutting midway through the decisive third round. Philippine officials decided to file a protest right after the match for biased officiating a bane that has hounded the boxing competition in the London Olympics.
Barriga was leading by two points going into the third round and he had outfought the Kazakh for two and half rounds when referee Roland Labbe of Canada imposed the penalty.
The Kazakh had wrestled Barriga into exhaustion in the third round as the Filipino lost steam in the middle of the fateful round, Barriga ducked under his opponent’s punches and was again wrestled down.
That was when the referee charged him with headbutting.
“That’s life. I was in condition, but I was exhausted because my opponent was wrestling me to the ground,” Barriga lamented after the fight.
At the end of the fight, Zkaypov again wrestled Barriga and slammed him into the canvas and himself fell. Both fighgters were on the canvas when the referee again called a penalty, this time on both fighters.
The loss leaves only three Filipinos in the Games. They are Daniel Caluag in BMX, Marestella Torres in long jump and Rene Herrera in the 5,000 meter run.
Barriga had been the country’s best bet for a medal and he looked well on his way to the quarter finals against the unimpressive Zou Shiming of China when he referee intervened in the third round.
Barriga, who beat Italy’s Manuel Cappai in the round of 32, was at the receiving end of what had turned into a wrestling match with the taller Kazakh trying to overpower him at the clinches and pushing him down every time he ducked low. Time and again, Barriga fell to the canvas.
And midway through the third round, he fell again. To Barrigas surprise, it was he who suffered the penalty.
“I can’t explain why he was penalized for headbutting,” lamented coach Roel Velasco.
The Filipino had outfought his opponent with counter-punches and managed to break through his defenses for two rounds.
He took the first round at 5-4. After a furious second round, Barriga was ahead at 10-8.
“He was wrestling me. It affected me badly. Everytime I ducked, he would wrestle me to the ground,” Barriga said.
“The referee thought I was headbutting,” he said.
Philippine officials said there’s basis for the protest. Patrick Gregorio, secretary general of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines said the Kazakh was given a warning three times and was never penalized.
Barriga was warned only once and he suffered the penalty.
The protest, filed by Gregorio and ABAP executive director Ed Picson with the jury, came in the wake of officiating scandals that had rocked the boxing competitions in the Games.
In one case, the International Amateur Boxing Federation (AIBA) had overturned the victory of India’s Krishan Vikas over Errol Spence in the welterweight division for biased officiating.
The competition jury thus awarded the fight to the American.