- Published on Friday, 27 July 2012 00:00
By A Web design Company
LONDON. —While training in Cardiff, Wales, fellow Olympians called him Pacquiao or Little Pacman.
When Mark Barriga and his coach, Roel Velasco, left that little city for London, his countrymen based there wished him the best of luck, hoping he’d be as good as boxing icon Manny Pacquiao when he launches his campaign in the Olympic Games here on July 31.
“Pacquiao o Little Pacman ang tawag sa akin,” said Barriga, dwarfed by towering foreign players heading in heading out of the huge dining hall where he took breakfast in the company of Velasco and amateur boxing official Ed Picson on Wednesday after a workout.
Velasco and Picson said the pint-sized boxer seeing action in the light-flyweight division won the hearts of Cardiff-based Filipinos and the respect of fellow boxers in the course of his 19-day training in Wales because of his style, exuberance and dedication to training.
“Siya ‘yung pinapanood ng mga fans and other boxers,” said Picson, noting the many lessons Barriga gained from the experience of sparring against fellow light-flyweight bets from Cameroon, Ghana, Mozambique, Trinidad-Tobago and Honduras.
“It’s a good experience. I can say he’s ready for this Olympics,” Picson said of the Panabo City, Davao del Norte native.
Barriga, 19, made it to the Olympics because the boxer who beat him in the quarterfinals during the World Championships qualifier went on to win the gold medal. That guy is defending Olympic titlist Zhou Zhiming, who outpointed him 12-5 in their quarterfinals skirmish.
Since checking into the Athletes Village on Tuesday morning, weight has never been a concern for Barriga, one of only two athletes in the 11-member national squad given a fighting chance of ending the country’s long medal drought that started in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“Walang problema sa timbang. Under weight nga kung minsan,” said Velasco, the last Filipino to score a podium finish after settling for the bronze medal in the light-flyweight division in the 1992 Barcelona Games.
In his first full day at the Village, Barriga worked out for a little more than an hour in the morning, doing shadow boxing, abdominal exercises, sprinting, sharpening his reflexes and hitting the mitts.
“Maganda naman ang training niya kanina. Ganadong mag-praktis,” added Velasco, who joined the national coaching staff a few years after retiring from active competition.
Then he blurted out the words that brought a smile on the face of team chief of mission Manny Lopez.
“Malaki ang pagasa ni Mark, sir,” Velasco told Lopez, his boss at the amateur boxing body when he was at the height of his career like his younger brother, Atlanta silver medallist Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco.
As he was about to leave the hall, Barriga saw South Korean Jong Hun shin, the No. 1 light-flyweight in the world, seated at the far end of the long table.
Turning to Lopez, Barriga pointed out Jong is, saying the Koeran is now No. 1 in the world based on the latest rankings, dislodging Zhiming.
After wishing Barriga the best of luck, Lopez told him to ignore the rankings, adding he’ll be fine if he works well and follow the battleplan come fight time. He is ranked 43rd.
“Huwag kang matakot sa rankings. Basta pagbutihin mo sa ring at malayo ang mararating mo,” Lopez said, then touched Barriga’s Mohawk-style hair like a dear son.