MANILA, Philippines – Filipino light flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga expects a good challenge from his Kazakhstan foe on Saturday’s Round of 16 in London Olympics’ amateur boxing.
Barriga, seen as the country’s biggest hope for an Olympic medal this year, also apologized for begging off from interviews.
In a statement, the 5’2” lefty from Davao said he had a chance to spar with Birzhan Zhakypov during a training camp in 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,” said Barriga.
He said Zhakypov wished him luck before his Round of 32 fight against Italy’s Manuel Cappai.
Barriga overwhelmed the taller Italian, 17-7.
Zhakypov, on the other hand, defeated Jeremy Beccu of France, 18-17.
“Sabi niya, kaya ko daw ‘yon (Cappai). Sabi ko din sa kanya kaya niya ang France,” said Barriga.
The Filipino boxer said their friendship would be temporarily set aside once the opening bell rings.
“Sa laban namin, bakbakan kami. Mabait siya pero magkalaban kami kaya gawin ko lahat para manalo,” said the 19-year-old.
Meanwhile, Barriga apologized to the Filipino media for begging off from interviews.
Barriga was surprised by all the media attention after his first victory.
“Pasensya na po sa lahat kung hindi muna ako makapagbigay ng interview,” he said. “Medyo nagulat po ako sa biglang attensyon kahit unang panalo pa lang.”
He said he still has tough fights ahead, so he needs to concentrate on his preparations.
Barriga said he’ll reserve the celebrations for later.
“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.”
Barriga was also thankful for his countrymen who cheered for him, including those who are based in London and Cardiff.
He asks for prayers for continued success in the Games.
“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 (business mogul Manny Pangilinan), sir Vargas (ABAP President 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.” -- with a report from Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau