At least, we had managed to slip in one boxer into the London Olympics. He is Mark Anthony Barriga who is competing in the light flyweight division.
After his much publicized win over Italy’s Manuel Cappai, the 19-year old Filipino boxer became an overnight sensation. Before this, he was a virtual unknown among netizens and/or the tweeterverse.
This prompted me to search for him in cyberspace and it delighted me more to know that he hails from Panabo, Davao del Norte about a hundred kilometers away from where I stay. His personal life includes being a printing machine operator for a Korean company in their hometown. He is taking up business administration in college and spends much of his time playing the guitar.
Even Barriga acknowledged the attention given to him when he said: “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.” (I was a bit surprised by the sudden attention given to me even if it was just the first win. The road to a medal is still long. The opponents waiting in a row are all strong and I don’t want to celebrate yet.)
The tweeter world already declared him as the “tweeple’s champ”. I confer the same honor to Mark Anthony Barriga. His being counted in the London Olympics is already a reason to celebrate while it is much better though to see him clinched a medal. The last Olympic medal (silver) in boxing was won by Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco in 2000 although it always makes me shudder in disbelief recalling that unfortunate event when cheating could not had been more glaring before our very eyes.
Barriga 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 the Kazakh’s nose once, but he says that is no indication that he will have an easy time of it on Saturday (8-4-12). 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 met his parents in London courtesy of Procter & Gamble who sponsored their first trip abroad.
Our hats off to you Mark Anthony. Whatever happens nothing can dampen the euphoria that we are in right now.
Meantime, we can do a lot by praying for Mark Anthony’s success. Nothing is impossible with God Almighty.