From the boxing mad Philippines, 19-year-old Light Flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga will be the country's sole representative in the boxing event at the London 2012 Olympic Games. There are high hopes however that the talented teenager could go all the way and claim an unprecedented gold medal for his country.
Scouting reports from the AIBA Road to London part II program, where he is currently training, have said that the exciting southpaw is looking in tremendous form after hugely impressing the coaching set-up in Cardiff.
Born on 11 June 1993, Barriga will this year look to emulate the likes of Mansueto Velasco, Roel Velasco and Leopoldo Serrantes, who respectively took silver and bronze at the Olympics in 1988 and in 1992 in the Light Flyweight category. The current Filipino prospect made his debut at the international level and competed at the 2010 AIBA Youth World Championships in Baku and is now seeking for his big breakthrough amongst the elite athletes.
His international record already speaks for itself. At the age of 16, he defeated Russian Youth National Champion Nikita Fedorchenko in the preliminary stages of the 2010 AIBA Youth World Championships in Baku to announce his arrival on the world stage. He continued to impress before being eliminated by the eventual silver medallist and Youth Olympic Games winner Ryan Burnett. Barriga then brought home the gold medal from the Sydney Jackson Memorial tournament in Uzbekistan before travelling once again to the Azeri capital to compete at the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships. There, Barriga caused one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when he triumphed over 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Patrick Barnes from Ireland. In Baku, Barriga lost to eventual winner, triple AIBA World Champion Shiming Zou of China but exhibited quality defences to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In May this year, the Filipino national boxing squad took part once again in the annual Sydney Jackson Memorial Tournament at the Universal Uzbekistan Sports Complex in Tashkent and Barriga was simply unstoppable. The Olympic medal hopeful defended his title in style, showcasing tremendous power and tactical maturity beyond his tender years. On route to the gold medal in Uzbekistan, Barriga defeated Russia's AIBA World Championships silver medallist David Ayrapetyan in a real declaration of intent.
Barriga, who turned 19 in June, is currently participating in the AIBA Road to London part II training camp in the Welsh capital and his application in his preparation for the Olympic Games has made everyone stand up and take notice. The fleet-footed Filipino declaring on arrival, "I am delighted to be here as part of the AIBA Road to Dream initiative, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to spar with boxers from around the world, test myself against different styles, and get myself in the best possible shape before the Olympic Games".
Can the promising Mark Anthony Barriga really come of age at the London 2012 Olympic Games and upset the current hierarchy in the Light Flyweight category to claim that elusive gold medal for the Philippines? We will soon find out.
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