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Barriga to train overseas?

By Joaquin Henson
Fri, 07 Dec 2018

There’s a possibility that minimumweight contender Mark Anthony Barriga will train either in Sydney under Todd Makelim or in Las Vegas where matchmaker Sean Gibbons could arrange for workouts in the Top Rank Gym when he returns from the holidays with his family in Panabo, Davao del Norte.

At the moment, Barriga will take a rest from boxing, possibly a month. He arrived in Manila from Los Angeles last Tuesday and will head for Panabo any day now. Over the weekend, Barriga lost a split 12-round decision to Mexico’s Carlos Licona in a battle for the vacant IBF 105-pound crown at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The verdict could’ve easily gone Barriga’s way but two of the three judges gave it to Licona whose nickname is Mexicanito.

At first, Barriga was devastated by the loss, the first in his pro career. He was bidding to become the fastest Filipino to win a world title in his 10th bout. The record remains with Malcolm Tunacao who wrested the WBC flyweight crown from Medgeon 3-K Battery on a seventh round stoppage in Thailand in 2000 in his 11th outing. Barriga was disconsolate as he apologized to trainer Joven Jimenez and Gibbons for failing to get the job done. Barriga was in tears in the lockerroom. He thought he had done enough to win but it wasn’t meant to be. The notion of giving up boxing entered his mind.

“I’ve been boxing since I was five,” said Barriga. “Now, I’m 25 and in the last 20 years, I’ve hardly been with my parents. I want to spend time with them while I think about my future.” Barriga said with what he earned from the Licona fight, he’ll pay for the medical treatment of his parents Edgar and Melita. His father has cysts in different parts of the body, including his face that is disfigured by a jutting jaw. His mother has difficulty breathing because of a valve issue in the heart. Barriga said he wants to find out from doctors what treatment is necessary. He’ll also have himself checked. There’s a recurring lump sticking out of his left wrist whenever he fights and it’s something that he wants a doctor’s opinion on because it could lead to a serious injury. There’s also a cyst in his left elbow that seems to be growing.

Barriga was given a $25,000 purse for facing Licona, the biggest in his career. He intends to use the money wisely.

Jimenez said with Barriga’s showing against Licona, doors are opening for more opportunities. The WBA will rank Barriga in the top five in its next ratings to pave the way for a shot at the minimumweight title held by Knockout CP Freshmart of Thailand. The IBF will call for a rematch with Licona after the Mexican makes a voluntary defense and Barriga wins an eliminator. Jimenez said after Barriga returns from vacationing in Davao del Norte, he may resume training in Sydney or Las Vegas.

Barriga credited nutritionist Jeaneth Aro for his diet and conditioning program where he trimmed down from 130 to 103.6 pounds in about two months without weakening or starving. Throughout the Licona fight, Barriga said he never got tired except in the 12th round but still had enough left in the tank for a furious finish. Barriga easily made the 105-pound limit for the bout. “Walang cramps,” he said. “Napagod ako sa last round pero binuhos ko pa rin ang lahat sa dulo. Ang ganda ng programa ni Ma’m Jeaneth. Kumain ako ng three meals a day with snacks but hindi tumaas ang timbang ko at bumaba pa nga.”

Barriga said at some point in his career, he may try to represent the country once more in the Olympics where pro boxers are now allowed to compete. At the 2012 London Games, he outpointed Italy’s Manuel Cappai, 17-7 in his first fight then lost a highly-disputed 17-16 decision to Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov in his second outing. “Kung may chance na makapaglaro uli sa Olympics, grab ko ‘yun,” he said. “Ang goal ko dati was to become the first Filipino Olympic gold medalist. Nabigo ako at hindi ako nawalan ng gana dahil ‘yun naka laan para sa akin. ‘Yun ang ibinigay ni God sa akin so tanggap ko ‘yun. If I have a chance na mag-laro uli sa Olympics, I will do it, 100 percent.”

There were three pro boxers who fought at the 2016 Rio Olympics but none landed a podium finish. It was the first time that the Olympics welcomed pro fighters. One of the pros was former IBF flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand.

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