Ref, jury shatter boxer Barriga’s Olympic dreamBy Artemio T. Engracia Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LONDON—The referee dealt a lethal blow to Mark Barriga’s Olympic dream on Saturday, but it was the jury which drove the last nail on the coffin of the Philippines’ one and only hope for a boxing medal in the 39th Olympic Games in London.
The competition jury refused to take up the appeal of boxing officials to review Barriga’s controversial loss to Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov hours after the referee penalized the Filipino light flyweight a total of four points in the final 90 seconds of the fight.
The Filipino lost the fight, 17-16. In effect, referee Roland Labbe of Canada single-handedly gave the fight to the Kazakh.
Luiz Bosell, chair of boxing’s competition jury of the London Games, said the jury upheld the referee’s decision, saying the appeal was “too subjective to review.”
Filipino officials had filed a protest, saying that while the referee had cautioned the Kazakh many times for wrestling and pushing, he gave a warning to Barriga midway through the final round for ducking too low.
In amateur boxing, a warning merits a two-point penalty against the offender by adding two points to his opponent’s score.
After losing the first round, 5-4, Barriga had outfought Zhakypov the rest of the fight, coming under the Kazakh’s punches and scoring repeatedly with combinations to the face and body. He went into the third round with an 10-8 advantage and was well on his way to the quarterfinals when the referee intervened halfway through the third and final round.
The taller Kazakh had wrestled Barriga throughout the fight, repeatedly slamming him to the canvas, swinging him around and against the ropes, and pushing him down.
With 84 seconds left in the fight, Barriga lunged with a left, but the Kazakh stepped back, caught his left shoulder and pushed him down. The referee stepped in and pulled them apart and started signalling a penalty on Barriga for ducking too low.
This surprised Barriga’s corner and the capacity crowd at the ExCel South Arena.
“He was pushing and slamming me around,” he said. “I was surprised I was the one who was penalized.”
Barriga gamely fought on, but he was on the verge of exhaustion due to the wrestling tactics of the Kazakh. Then the referee pulled one final surprise. Instead of penalizing just Zhakypov, he also penalized Barriga.
This time, Barriga turned his back on the referee and walked away.
“I was pissed off. I was the one getting hurt from too much wrestling,” he lamented.
In a statement on Sunday morning, amateur boxing president Ricky Vargas said it was “a painful experience” for a young and promising boxer who worked hard and fought with a big heart, only to lose by a controversial call by the referee.