Barriga: Brainy, blazing, brave
Wasn’t he also a whirlwind of a warrior?
Tiny Mark Barriga on Tuesday was every pesky inch a brainy blizzard that blasted and slammed his way to a first win for the beleaguered Philippine contingent in the London Olympics.
He was both powerful and fast but it was his big fighting heart which visibly overwhelmed and terrified his tall Italian foe en route to an amazing 17-7 conquest.
Barriga, 19, did great defense, preferring to sway side to side, a big improvement from the befuddled toddler who, after a brave, sensational start, froze and got banged on the ropes to drop his opening bout in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia.
The lone Filipino boxer in London on Tuesday night never paused and very seldom stepped back.
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Definitely delighted, the cheering crowd could only wonder how Barriga, so tiny he could be mistaken for a straying tot, fought like a big brave man to subdue a foe no less than four inches taller than him.
After that SEA Games foldup, Barriga received a severe dressing down from his superior, PH boxing executive director Ed Picson.
But on Tuesday, a very pleased Picson could only swear that, while skill can be transferred, courage can never be taught.
Barriga already had loads of it from the very start.
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Peddled as the Little Pacquiao in London, the wonder kid from Panabo, Davao del Norte, indeed has a big left punch like Pacman, his idol.
Barriga, of course, cannot be exactly as speedy or as sharp as Pacquiao, who at his best is a blazing blur when feasting on bigger foes.
Pacquiao masterfully shoots with sharp, snapping punches, thrown like a spear.
But Barriga tends to throw punches from the side, slamming, using his fists like a bludgeon.
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Unlike in his punching picnic against the flatfooted Italian Manuel Cappai, Barriga is expected to encounter problems in succeeding bouts.
In fact, he will need timely adjustments against Kazakh Birshan Zhakypov in their round-of-16 match today.
Today’s boxing program should also help assess how far Barriga could go.
His erstwhile conqueror, defending Olympic light flyweight champion Zou Shiming, after getting a first-day draw, clashes with the fearsome Veitia Soto Yosbany of Cuba.
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It will take a total of five wins for Barriga to capture the elusive first Olympic gold medal for the country.
There had been prayers for Barriga not to draw Shiming in his first bout.
That first win against the befuddled Italian can be taken as only a measly investment in his Olympic quest.
The win has only rendered the elusive gold visible, but not in anyway within reach.
A win over his Kazakh foe would go a long way in pushing Barriga farther ahead.
A third win puts him only one victory within a bronze medal.
By that time, it should be tantalizingly close for tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, Smart Communications big boss, to book a flight to London, with the P12 million he has promised to reward the first Filipino Olympic gold medalist.
Meanwhile, the dream first gold remains only that—a dream.