MANILA, Philippines – Filipino boxer Mark Anthony Barriga's smashing performance in his first bout in the Olympic Games impressed even his opponent's trainer, with Italian coach Francisco Damiani admitting Barriga "dominated" the fight.
Barriga, who competes at light-flyweight, lifted the Philippines' medal hopes at the London Olympics when he outclassed Italian teenager Manuel Cappai in his first match at the amateur boxing tournament, 17-7, to advance to the round of 16.
In a press statement sent by Barriga's camp, Damiani was quoted as saying the Filipino is "the better fighter."
"He counter-punched very well," Damiani said of Barriga. "He’s shorter, but that's no problem with him."
Generously listed at 5-foot-2, Barriga slickly avoided the punches of the taller Cappai, who stands at 5-foot-6. Using impressive footwork, the 19-year-old Barriga often ducked Cappai’s half-hearted jabs en route to unleashing combinations.
Barriga struck the first significant blow when he tagged Cappai in the head early in the first round, and then dazed the Italian later in the round which led to a standing eight count.
"He dominated the fight," Damiani said.
But Damiani, who won gold in the heavyweight division of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, is also disappointed with how his fighter failed to follow his instructions.
"I told him to attack, attack, attack, but he didn't do it," he said.
Cappai seemed to have gotten frustrated early on in the fight after getting hit by Barriga in the first round. His long jab failed to keep Barriga at bay, and by the third round, he was swinging wildly at the Filipino boxer.
Barriga, who has earned the nickname "Little Pacquiao" in reference to Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, also impressed BBC commentator Richie Woodhall.
Woodhall, a former world champion in the super middleweight division, said Barriga's performance was "one of the best counter-punching displays in the tournament so far."
The Filipino boxer will next face Kazakh fighter Birzhan Zhakypov, who escaped Frenchman Jeremy Beccu in his opening fight, 18-17. -- Reports from Rose Eclarinal and Ed Lao, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau