The fat lady sang

The country is still in shock over the decision favoring Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov who defeated Mark Anthony Barriga in their round of 16 bout in Olympic light flyweight boxing.  Though there was a silver lining when the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines filed a protest to try to reverse the outcome on the grounds of unfair officiating, it didn’t take long before AIBA decided to not even review the footage of the fight and rejected the protest, thus officially ending Barriga’s quest to bring home a medal.

He came in the ring with a smile, looking confident and ready to uplift a nation who was waiting with baited breath.  In the first round, he seemed to be more aggressive than Zhakypov but the judges gave Barriga only four points versus five for the Kazakh.  AIBA had just introduced a new scoring system last January 2012 where the judges give an individual score for each boxer. The score given to each boxer would be taken from 3 out of 5 judges either as similar scores or trimmed mean.
He let it rain in the second round where his flurry of punches earned him six points against the Kazakh’s three. This is the same round, though, where veteran international amateur fight referee but first time Olympic referee Roland Labbe from Edmonton, Canada issued Barriga’s first warning and deduction.
The third round saw Zhakypov as the aggressor, and Barriga looking gassed.  But what drew the ire of the crowd was the Kazhak’s wrestling take down moves on the Filipino but Barriga getting a warning for ducking.  And when the Filipino pug got tackled near the end of the round, both fighters hit the canvas and got warnings.

Then the bell rang.  The blue corner won with a score of 16 to 17, with the Kazhak fighter getting nine points off similar scores and the Filipino only getting 6 in the final canto.
The judges were Francis Beuchet of France, Veronika Szucs of Hungary, Andrew Caulfield of Great Britain, Dorian Butar of Sweden and Gerardo Poggi of Argentina. 

ABAP did not accept the decision and immediately filed a protest.  They cited a similar situation that was put under protest and was reversed – bout 147.  India’s Vikas Krishan in the 69kg category was declared the winner on the ring against USA’s Errol Spence.  But the 13-11 outcome was reversed 15-13 in favour of the American after review citing that there were fouls committed by the Indian boxer that were not noticed by the referees.  In the review, they said Vikas should have been penalised with a four point deduction for holding his rival nine times and spitting out his gumshield during the bout deliberately.
It didn’t take long for AIBA to reject ABAP’s protest citing that giving warnings without caution is groundless, and that the appeal of bout 147 is too subjective to review.

The fat lady sang.

Shocked and distraught, Filipinos shared their sentiments on social media on how Barriga is still a hero, and that he is a great prospect for Rio in 2016.  Of course there were others who had own negative opinions on AIBA and how they favored the Kazakh fighter because Kazakhstan had built and will open next month an AIBA Boxing Academy. 

(side note:  Maybe we should also build a boxing academy hub in Baguio, similar to the Kazakhstan’s Soldatkoe Valley, site of the AIBA Boxing academy, situated 2,000 meters above sea level.  This is not to be confused with what was filed last year called the House Bill 5224, the Boxing Academy Act of 2011 that refers to regular tournaments to find and harness local talents and inclusion of boxing fundamentals in public schools and state universities’ curriculum)

ABAP’s President Ricky Vargas who was in London issued the following statement:

“It was a painful experience to witness Mark Anthony Barriga, a young and promising boxer who worked so hard and fought with a big heart only to lose due to a controversial call by the referee which gave two bonus points to his much taller opponent.

“We felt we owed it to Mark to place the fight under protest, to fight for him as he fought for us. Unfortunately, the Competition Jury did not entertain it, not even reviewing the tape of the fight.

“It seems in the battle of "giants" justice is more difficult to attain for a small country like ours.

“Despite this painful experience, we will persevere and work even harder to achieve our Olympic quest.
“We may have lost a boxing match in London, but definitely NOT our Filipino pride.”

Barriga would have fought Olympic gold medallist Zou Shiming of China in the next round if he had won.
It was Zou who ended Zhakypov’s Olympic dreams four years ago. 


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