Mark Anthony Barriga will start his quest for the elusive Olympic gold medal against tall Italian fighter Manuel Cappai in the first round of the light flyweight boxing competition of the 2012 London Olympics.
Barriga, who is the lone boxing entry of the Philippines, got a lucky draw according to team officials, but the 19-year-old native of Davao, will have reigning world champion and gold-medal favorite Zou Shiming as his possible quarterfinal opponent.
But before having the chance of redeeming himself against his Chinese tormentor in the World Championship, Barriga will have to hurdle Cappai, who is no push-over, having captured the bronze medal in the 2008 world championships.
Barriga’s coach Roel Velasco, who won the bronze medal in the same division as Barriga during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, described Cappai as fighter who fights like the Chinese champion, but expressed confidence with their chances against the Italian pug.
“We have a good chance,” Velasco said. “He fights like Zou – hit and run, hit and run. But he’s not as skilled as Zou. Mark can get past the Italian.”
Barriga has never faced the Italian, but he already met him during the weigh-in. The young pug from Davao admitted that his opponent is definitely taller than him, but he is already aware of that disadvantage since he is the smallest fighter in the division.
“I am the shortest in the group,” Barriga said in Filipino. “He moves quick but I am ready for him.”
If Barriga will successfully hurdle his first test, he will be tipped against the winner of the Birzhan Zhakypov and Jeremy Beccu bout in the second round of the tournament.
Being the top-ranked fighter in the division, Zou drew a first-round bye along with Shin Jong Hun of South Korea, Davisd Ayrapetyan of Russia, and Serdamba Purevdorj of Mongolia, who are ranked second to fourth in the world, respectively.