It took a virtuoso performance from light flyweight (49 kgs) boxer Mark Anthony Barriga against Italian opponent Manuel Cappai to finally get Filipinos excited about their countryman in the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Short-stacked with only 11 delegates being able to qualify to represent the three stars and the eight point sun, Barriga, one of the shortest boxers in his division, proved once again that boxing is the sport where Filipinos can be most successful through his opening round win.
Foreshadowing the path the 19-year-old has to embark on for that coveted first Olympic Gold, I penned that Barriga truly has a Goliathan task ahead of him prior to the opening day of competition. His performance suggested that he is a capable “David”, able to slay physically imposing giants.
Barriga was sharp and took advantage of almost every mistake his switch-hitting foe made. Countering patiently and effectively, Barriga dictated the fight with a looping right hook that dropped his much taller opponent to his knees. The Filipino boxer then stamped his class and continued to dominate Cappai en route to a 17-7 win after three rounds.
Barriga was so impressive some even managed to almost spoil his feat by calling his performance “Pacquiao-esque”. Incidentally, Pacquiao has extended monetary incentive for Barriga in the event he comes home with a medal.
“May bonus siya sa akin pag nag-medal siya (He gets a bonus from me if he wins a medal),” the 33-year-old Pacquiao told PhilStar.com late Tuesday.
Up next for Barriga is a quarterfinal showdown with 29-year-old Kazakh Birzhan Zhakypov this Saturday. Barriga has previously sparred with Zhakypov and was said to have bloodied his nose during one of those sessions. “We are studying the tape of my Kazakhstan opponent. I believe it will be a good fight because we sparred before and he is good and strong,” Barriga said in a quote from Philboxing.com.
In his win, Barriga showcased why he earned a spot in the Olympics managing to switch up from being a counter-puncher to the aggressor when needed. He made few mistakes and kept his defense tight, showed maturity in picking his shots rather than trading carelessly during heated exchanges. He also flashed a “pro-ready” style, which suggests a promising future if he decides to turn pro unlike other previous Filipino boxing Olympians. That said, his style may also get him in some tight decisions against better opponents with the way amateur boxing is scored.
As the competition gets stiffer, Barriga can count on being a marked man with his dominating performance. His next opponent will surely be more prepared with what he has to bring and have scouted his win attentively. For this capable “David”, the quest has just begun.