'Little Pacquiao' drew first blood vs Kazakh foe

Posted at 08/02/2012 12:29 PM | Updated as of 08/02/2012 12:30 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino light flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga revealed he already bloodied the nose of Kazakh boxer Birzhan Zhakypov before their upcoming match in the London Olympics’ amateur boxing Round of 16 this Saturday.

Barriga, seen as the Philippines' best hope for an Olympic medal this year, said he had a chance to spar with Birzhan Zhakypov during a training camp in Kazakhstan.

“Sa tingin ko, magandang laban yong Sabado kasi naka spar na kami nung Kazakhstan sa kanila nung nag training ako doon. Magaling at malakas siya,” the 5’2” lefty from Davao said.

It was learned that Barriga bloodied Zhakypov's nose during one of the sparring sessions.

Barriga, however, said this is no indication that he will have an easy time against the Kazakh fighter since he will be pulling out all the stops on Saturday.

He said he is now studying the tapes of his sparring session against Zhakypov.

Barriga said Zhakypov wished him luck before his Round of 32 fight against Italy’s Manuel Cappai. Barriga overwhelmed the taller Italian, 17-7.

Zhakypov, on the other hand, defeated Jeremy Beccu of France, 18-17.

“Sabi niya, kaya ko daw ‘yon (Cappai). Sabi ko din sa kanya kaya niya ang France,” said Barriga.

The Filipino boxer said their friendship will have to take a backseat once the opening bell rings.

“Sa laban namin, bakbakan kami. Mabait siya pero magkalaban kami kaya gawin ko lahat para manalo,” said the 19-year-old.

Pacquiao moves

Barriga, who earned the nickname "Little Pacquiao" after training in Manny Pacquiao's camp before the Olympics, drew praise after defeating the taller Cappai in the first Round of 32.

The Filipino boxer said a turning point in the match came in the first round when he landed a solid left straight on Cappai's face.

He said he saw the Italian's expression change, showing that he got intimidated. It was then that Barriga felt he could win the fight.

Barriga said he relied on his quickness to avoid Cappai's power shots especially in the second round. One wild shot hit Barriga in the chest and almost knocked the wind out of him.

Barriga, however, soldiered on.

In the 3rd round, Barriga decided to do his "Pacquiao moves" after getting a comfortable lead and after his coach adjusted his headguard. He scored a couple more points enroute to a 17-7 victory.

Media attention

Barriga said he feels overwhelmed with the media attention after his Round of 32 victory at the London Olympics.

He apologized to the Filipino media for begging off from interviews, saying he needs to concentrate on his matches.

"Pasensya na po sa lahat kung hindi  muna ako makapagbigay ng interview. Medyo nagulat po ako sa biglang attensyon kahit unang panalo pa lang," he said in a statement.

He added: "Malayo pa po ang kailangan naming gawin para maka medalya. Malalakas  ang mga naghihintay na kalaban kaya ayaw kong mag celebrate muna. Focus muna sa training."

Barriga was also thankful for his countrymen who cheered for him, including those who are based in London and Cardiff.

He asked for prayers for continued success in the Games.

“Gagawin ko po lahat para maging masaya tayo dito sa boxing sa Olympics. Sana ipagdasal din po ako ng kababayan natin. Lalo na sina Sir MVP (business mogul Manny Pangilinan), sir Vargas (ABAP President Ricky Vargas), at marami pa na bumati at nagdadasal para sa akin sa Pilipinas. At mga Pilipino dito sa London at sa Cardiff, ang babait ninyo sa akin. Salamat.”