Mark Anthony Barriga

2012 Olympic Profile:

Mark Anthony Barriga

Event: Boxing (light-flyweight division)

Born: June 11, 1993


The Philippines has an impressive record in professional boxing, with world champions like Manny Pacquaio and Nonito Donaire. However, the Philippines has never captured a gold medal since making its Olympic debut in 1924. Mark Anthony Barriga is the country’s latest hope for a gold.

The 19-year-old fighter is smaller than all other entries in the flyweight 48-kg category. But Barriga doesn’t see that as a huge disadvantage considering where he’s come from.

“I learned the sport when I was 10 years old,” he said. “My father encouraged me to go into boxing to protect myself so nobody could bully me in school or wherever I went.”

That’s more or less how it played out, though it took a while for Barriga to find himself as a fighter.

“During my early days in the gym, I did not enjoy boxing,” he said. “I was the smallest among all the boxers. Most of the time, my sparring partner was always bigger than me. What could you expect? I was always beaten. After months of training, I noticed that little by little, I could exchange punch by punch, body to body, toe to toe with my partners. That started my interest in pursuing my boxing career.”

Barriga credits his father Edgar, a printing machine operator for a Korean company in Davao del Norte, with teaching him the basics of the sport, including proper footwork, punching tactics, counter-attacks and more advanced boxing techniques. He later went on to win tournaments, including the annual Sydney Jackson Memorial Tournament in Uzbekistan in 2011 and 2012.

Barriga qualified for London at the World Championships in Azerbaijan last October after making it to the quarterfinals there. Since then, he has focused on building stamina and improving his technique in sessions with his coach, Roel Velasco.

“I’m working on my footwork, defense and quick counter-punching. I know body shots don’t often count so I’m concentrating on head shots. When the body’s open, I’ll stick in some shots just to open up the head. I’ve got to be quick on my feet because if you stand still, you’ll get hit,” he said.

Barriga said he’s particularly looking forward to facing boxer Zou Shiming, a rival. Shiming, the bronze medalist in 2004 in Athens and gold medalist in 2008 in Beijing, is considered the biggest threat to all the boxers vying in the flyweight class. Barriga lost to Shiming in Azerbaijan last October. The Chinese boxer won the gold, though the fact that Barriga lost to the eventual winner meant that he was granted a ticket to London.

“He’s very experienced but he’s also getting old. I’ve studied his style closely. I’m ready for him,” Barriga said.

Barriga is one of the main hopes of the Philippines for gold. The last time the Philippines took a boxing medal home from the Olympics, a silver, was in 1996 in Atlanta courtesy of fighter Onyok Velasco. Since then, the country has suffered a long medal drought in boxing, from Sydney to Athens to Beijing.

“I don’t think about the pressure of winning,” Barriga said. “There’s big pressure because I’ll be the only Filipino boxer in London. But I just ignore it.”

Barriga – who is also studying business and spends much of his time playing guitar—said he’s just happy to be representing the country. “I’ve watched others fight in the Olympics and now, I can’t believe it’s my turn,” he said.

Preliminary bouts for the men’s light-flyweight action begin on July 31.

Memorable Quote

“In the Olympics, you can’t take any fighter lightly, because everyone is a champion. Every fight is like a fight for the gold medal. So I’ve got to give my best shot.” 🙄

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