Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) President Ricky Vargas describes Mark Anthony Barriga, our lone Pinoy boxer in the London 2012 Olympics, as a “smart fighter with a heart of a warrior playing for flag and country”.
Vargas also asks that Filipinos continue to support Barriga “by offering prayers for his continued success.” The sports leader added “his continued success will inspire the nation, no doubt”.
After he conquered the ring against Manuel Cappai from Italy, ABAP Executive Director Ed Picson made sure nothing at all would distract him.
Barriga though shared some of his thoughts on the fight, through Picson’s e-mail and here’s what it said:
“After Mark hit Cappai with a solid left straight to the face in the first round, he saw the Italian's expression change. It was then that he felt he could win the fight. He felt his opponent got intimidated.”
He felt the Italian also had power and he had to be really quick to get out of the way of his power shots especially in the second round. He got hit by a wild shot by Cappai to the chest that almost knocked the wind out of him. But Mark stood his ground.
Late in the third round after coach Roel adjusted his head guard and he knew he had a comfortable lead, he decided to do his "Pacquiao moves", emulating his boxing idol. He scored a couple more points in that stretch.
He knows his next opponent, Kazakhstan's Birzhan Zhakypov, quite well. Early this year at the Asian Olympic Qualifying, ABAP sent Barriga even though he was already qualified. He didn't participate in the tournament and just trained there. He sparred with the Kazakh two or three times and they had very exciting sessions. Mark bloodied his nose once, but he says that is no indication that he will have an easy time of it Saturday. Mark says he needs to be at his best because the 28 year old Zhakypov also wants to advance and will pull out all the stops.
Mark will meet his parents for lunch today. They saw each other briefly yesterday after the bout. His parents were brought over by Procter & Gamble. It's their first trip abroad.
Mark is embarrassed that he could not accommodate requests for interviews. He says he wants to be able to finish the job first. He composed the following statement instead:
“Pasensya na po sa lahat kung hindi muna ako makapagbigay ng interview. Medyo nagulat po ako sa biglang attensyon kahit unang panalo pa lang. Malayo pa po ang kailangan naming gawin para maka medalya. Malalakas ang mga naghihintay na kalaban kaya ayaw kong mag celebrate muna.
“Focus muna sa training. Pinag-aralan namin ang tape ng mga laban ko at ng Kazakhstan. Sa tingin ko magandang laban yong Sabado kasi naka spar na kami nung Kazakhstan sa kanila nung nag training ako doon. Magaling at malakas siya. Binati pa nga niya ako kahapon (Tuesday) bago ng laban ko sa Italy. Sabi niya kaya ko daw yon. Sabi ko din sa kanya kaya niya ang France. Pero sa laban namin, bakbakan kami. Mabait siya pero magkalaban kami kaya gawin ko lahat para manalo.
“Patawad po talaga sa hindi ko pagpa-interview. Sana maunawaan po ako ninyo. Pero gagawin ko po lahat para maging masaya tayo dito sa boxing sa Olympics. Sana ipagdasal din po ako ng kababayan natin. Lalo na sina Sir MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan) , Sir Vargas (Ricky Vargas), at marami pa na bumati at nagdadasal para sa akin sa Pilipinas. At mga Pilipino dito sa London at sa Cardiff, ang babait ninyo sa akin. Salamat.
“Maraming salamat sa lahat ng media, alam ko nasa likod ko kayo.”