Sunday, August 5, 2012 Barriga vows to Kazakh fighter

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(Updated 3:30 a.m. August 5) Two last-round deductions sealed the fate of the Philippines' Mark Barriga, as the feisty 19-year-old light flyweight lost by a point to Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan on Saturday, 17-16, ending the country's best chance at reaching the medal stage at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Davao native and first-time Olympian faced a veteran in 28-year-old Zhakypov, who represented Kazakhstan at the 2008 Beijing games. The Kazakhstani reached the quarterfinals round before losing to the eventual gold medalist, Zou Shiming of China.

In the first round, the two boxers both put up tight defenses, with Zhakypov barely edging the Filipino, 5-4.

Round two gave Filipinos something to cheer, as Barriga landed a solid left with 1:04 remaining. A flurry of combinations had him winning the round, 6-3, to lead the fight 10-8 entering the final round.

Without a round remaining, Zhakypov became the aggressor, as the 5'2 Barriga struggled against his 5'6 opponent.  The Filipino was taken down twice at the two minute mark, prompting boos as the crowd expressed their disapproval of Zhakypov's wrestling-like style. Soon after, the audience began to chant "Phi-li-ppines," to try to inspire the much smaller Filipino.

Late in the third, Barriga looked exhausted because of his opponent's rough play, but instead of the underdog Filipino getting the benefit of the referee, Barriga was instead warned for ducking, which resulted in his opponent getting two extra points. With one second remaining, the Filipino found himself on the canvas yet again, after a Zhakypov tackle. This time, both fighters drew warnings, before the final bell sounded.

PHL's Mark Barriga tries to subdue his taller foe. His handlers say the referee's decisions in the third and last round gave the win to the fighter from Kazakhstan.

Protest filed, rejected

The Kazakhstani wound up winning the final round, 9-6, enough to claim the victory with a final score of 17-16.

Amateur Basketball Association of the Philippines (ABAP) executive director Ed Picson told GMA News that the protest they immediately filed after the bout was denied. The ABAP protested the points that Barriga effectively lost because of the referee's decisions.

"We felt he was not given what they call a caution, which normally precedes a warning. And the Kazakh boxer was cautioned several times but never warned for pushing down Barriga's head. He was never warned for that. In short it was unfair," Picson said.

"However the protest committee did not entertain our protest. They rejected it and they did not even review the fight tape," the ABAP official added.

Agence France Presse reported that Barriga was given two warnings in the final round, costing him four points, which proved crucial in the final outcome. Zhakypov was also given a warning in the third, during which there was more wrestling than boxing.

The country has suffered a long medal drought, with its last podium finish -- a silver in boxing -- coming in the Atlanta games in 1996. It has never won gold but did bag bronze medals, also in boxing, in 1992 and 1988.

Remaining medal hopes

With Barriga's defeat, only three of the eleven-man Filipino contingent remain in the hunt for a medal at the games. On August 7, Marestella Torres will compete in women's long jump, while Rene Herrera takes his chances at the 5000m run. The last Filipino to compete will be BMX rider Daniel Caluag who will compete in men's BMX racing on August 8.

It will be a repeat of the 2008 Beijing quarterfinals for Zhakypov as he faces Zou yet again on August 8.

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