Anxious PH wait on eve of Barriga’s second bout | Inquirer Sports

Anxious PH wait on eve of Barriga’s second bout

LONDON—Members of the  tiny Philippine delegation were on pins and needles on a chilly Saturday afternoon here as light flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga prepared to climb the ring  for his second-round fight with a Kazakh foe at the 30th London Olympics here.

Barriga, the 19-year-old dynamo from Panabo, Davao del Norte, sets out as the slight favorite over Birzhan Zhakypov, nine  years his senior, in the second of 16 fights in the 49-kilogram  competition at the cavernous Abu Dhabi-owned ExCeL Arena.

A win for the 5-foot fighter called “Little Pacquiao” by his peers will forged a quarterfinal match with either defending Olympic champion Zou Shiming or the rapid-firing Yasbany Soto of Cuba, with the victor already assured of a bronze medal.


Barriga exuded confidence hours before his 1:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. Manila time) clash with Zhakypov, the wily Kazakh who broke the hearts of many at the arena by the River Thames when he nipped Frenchman Jeremy Beccu via a disputed 18-17 decision.


“Kinabahan ako nung kalaban ko ang (I was nervous when I fought the) Italian, pero ngayon wala akong kaba, at least konti lang (but I feel better now),” said the only Filipino to score a win and advance to the next round in these Games.

Timing his counterpunches to perfection and packing a solid left punch like his idol Manny Pacquiao, Barriga overwhelmed Italian Manuel Cappai, 17-7, in their first round clash last Tuesday, rousing the tiny Philippine delegation here and sparking hopes among officials of finally ending the country’s medal drought through two Olympics.

He had light breakfast of cereals and bread before heading back to a vacant room next to the PH delegation’s quarters to rest before a brief shadow-boxing session with coach Roel Velasco.

“Konting kain, maraming kwentuhan (He ate lightly and listened to animated conversations),” said Ed Picson, executive secretary of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines.

Picson said Abap president Ricky Vargas and secretary general Patrick Gregorio arrived Friday to join Barriga’s parents, Merlita and Ed, in rooting for the fighter at ringside. The Barriga couple were flown here from Davao by Olympic sponsor Procter & Gamble.

Barriga and Zhakypov greeted each other at the Athletes Village mess hall Saturday. As he made his way to the exit, the Filipino bumped into Cappai and the two smiled at each other.


The only other Filipino medal hope here, BMX rider Daniel Caluag, also expressed readiness to compete despite sustaining bruises in a crash while practicing in Birmingham Friday afternoon (See related story above).

The Fil-Am Caluag landed on his shoulder after his pedal wrap unclipped as he hurtled down an eight-meter ramp at the same track which hosted the recent world championship.

The 25-year-old Caluag finally gets to practice at the new 400-meter Olympic track on Monday along with his chief rivals from Great Britain and the United States.

Only Barriga, Caluag, Marestella Torres and 5,000-meter runner Rene Herrera are still in contention from among the original 11-athlete national team.

Torres, the former Asian long jump queen who made her Olympic debut in Beijing 2008, attempts to barge into the semifinals at the Main Olympic Stadium on Tuesday. A flop in Beijing,  where she failed to clear 6.20 meters, she hopes to surpass her 6.72m PH record and make the second round.

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Herrera will not see action until the eve of the Closing Ceremonies when he tries to qualify for the semifinals of an event that is admittedly not his specialty. Herrera is Southeast Asia’s 3,000m steeplechase marvel, having ruled the event four consecutive times.

TAGS: 30th London Olympics, Boxing, London Olympics, Mark Anthony Barriga, Olympics

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