Bar­riga fights Thai for WBO int’l crown

The Philippine Star - - SPORTS - By JOAQUIN HEN­SON

It will be a leap of faith for London Olympian Mark An­thony Bar­riga as he en­gages bat­tlescarred Thai vet­eran Wit­tawas Bas­a­pean of Thai­land in only his sev­enth pro fight for the chance to crash the top 10 rat­ings in a sched­uled 12-round match for the va­cant WBO In­ter­na­tional min­i­mumweight crown in Bei­jing on Sept. 29.

The bout will head­line an eight-fight card to be staged by Danc­ing Sports In­dus­try of Bei­jing and Sen. Manny Pac­quiao’s MP Pro­mo­tions, sanc­tioned by the Pro­fes­sional Box­ing Com­mis­sion of China. Pac­quiao tapped Las Ve­gas match­maker Sean Gib­bons to as­sem­ble the card which will fea­ture five un­de­feated box­ers and a six-round fe­male en­counter.

Bar­riga, 24, is a young man in a hurry and his trainer Joven Jimenez said he’s ready for the big time. If Bar­riga beats Wit­tawas, he’ll be el­e­vated to No. 1 or No. 2 in the WBO lad­der as the new In­ter­na­tional cham­pion in the 105-pound di­vi­sion. Bar­riga’s record is 6-0, with 1 KO, but Jimenez said it’s no in­di­ca­tion of a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence or power. Bar­riga, a south­paw, fought ex­ten­sively in the am­a­teur ranks and has trav­elled around the globe fac­ing box­ers of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, in­clud­ing Zou Shim­ing of China and Paddy Barnes of Ire­land so he’s no stranger to high-level, pres­surepacked com­pe­ti­tion.

Wit­tawas, 32, is a griz­zled war­rior with a 33-6 record, in­clud­ing 12 KOs, and will be a big test for Bar­riga. The Thai has fought twice for the world light­fly­weight ti­tle, los­ing to Naoya Inoue in 2014 and Akira Yae­gashi in 2016, both by knock­out. He was in the Philip­pines twice, bow­ing to Denver Cuello in An­gono in 2011 and to Randy Pe­tal­corin in Man­daluy­ong in 2012. Two of his vic­tims were Filipinos Jimmy Masangkay and Richie Be­hec. He’s com­ing off two straight wins.

In Bar­riga’s cor­ner in Bei­jing will be Jimenez and IBF su­per­fly­weight cham­pion Jer­win An­ca­jas, his co-man­agers. Jimenez said it’s been a process for Bar­riga to adapt to the pro style but he’s mak­ing progress. An­ca­jas is his men­tor and Bar­riga even lives in the cham­pion’s home in Kawit with his older brother Ed­cel. Bar­riga’s par­ents stay in their home­town of Pan­abo, Davao del Norte.

“Mark is ripe for this ti­tle shot,” said Jimenez in Pilipino. “He’s like a hero in Kawit and Kawit Mayor (An­gelo) Aguinaldo and Vice Mayor (Ar­man) Ber­nal will try to fly to Bei­jing for moral sup­port. Train­ing has been per­fect. Mark is now about six pounds over the limit so it’s no prob­lem to make weight. This chance is what he’s been wait­ing for. Mark was im­pres­sive in his last two fights and I know he’ll be im­pres­sive in Bei­jing.”

Jimenez said Bar­riga has been work­ing on putting more power in his short punches. “As an am­a­teur, he got used to punch­ing long, far and wide,” he said. “That’s how it is in am­a­teur box­ing. But he’s learn­ing to punch like Jer­win. Even if his record doesn’t show it, Mark has knock­out power with his left straight and right hook. Wit­tawas is an ag­gres­sive fighter with power. He’s tai­lor-made for Mark who’ll hit and run, box from a dis­tance and counter.”

Bar­riga, Jimenez and An­ca­jas will leave for Bei­jing on Fri­day. Gib­bons will be at ring­side to eval­u­ate Bar­riga’s per­for­mance. Jimenez said Bar­riga is ranked No. 14 by the IBF but isn’t rated any­where else. A hand in­jury in 2015 is now a thing of the past, added Jimenez. Bar­riga un­der­went surgery to re­pair torn lig­a­ments and ten­dons in between knuck­les in his right hand. The op­er­a­tion was per­formed by hand spe­cial­ist Dr. Ida Ta­cata.

In the Bei­jing un­der­card, China’s ris­ing star Jin Xiang Pan takes on Aus­tralia’s James MacDonald in a 10-rounder for the WBO Youth su­per­feath­er­weight ti­tle. Jin, 20, is 5-10 1/2 with a 72-inch wing­span and has a 7-0 record, in­clud­ing 4 KOs. Ron­nie Bal­don­ado of Cota­bato del Norte meets In­done­sia’s Iwan Zoda in a 10-rounder for the WBO Ori­en­tal fly­weight di­a­dem. Bal­don­ado, 21, has a record of 9-0-1, with 6 KOs and is fresh from scor­ing three wins in a row, all by first round knock­out.

In other fights, Jay-Ar In­son of Davao City tan­gles with Yang Cheng Jin in an eight-round lightwel­ter­weight duel, Rene Mark Cuarto of Zamboanga del Norte tack­les Guang Xiong Li in an eight-round light­fly­weight match, un­beaten Vin­cent Astro­labio of Gen­eral San­tos City takes on Chao Peng in an eight-round su­per­fly­weight clash, Gen­e­sis Li­branza of Agu­san del Sur tan­gles with Yu Jie Zeng in an eight-round fly­weight tiff and un­de­feated In­done­sian Sop­ida Sa­tum­ram squares off with Jing Cheng in a six-round fe­male cur­tain raiser.

Mark An­thony Bar­riga

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