By Joe Antonio
MANILA – Lightflyweight Mark Barriga of the Philippines lost by the slimmest of margin, 17-16, to Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan in their Round-of-16 fight at the ExCel Arena in the 30th Summer Olympics in London.
The 19-year old from Panabo, Davao Oriental, who stood four inches shorter than his Kazakh opponent, trailed by only a point, 4-5 in the first round, but put together dizzying combination in the second to seize a two-point lead on a 6-3 score in the second round.
It was a different, albeit strange, story in the third round. Barriga continued to take the fight to Zhakypov in the third round, but the referee unexplicably deducted a point from the Filipino for clinching midway in the round.
That puzzling point deduction kept Barriga on the defensive against Zhakypov, who resorted to a punch-and-clinch tactic throughout the remaining time.
The referee again deducted a point, this time on both Barriga and Zhakypov with only a second to go. At the close of the round, the judges gave Zhakypov a 9-6 score to advance to the quarterfinal round.
Barriga thus failed to advance, and towed with him the hopes of his
countrymen for a possible medal in boxing in this year’s Olympics.
Filipino-Japanese judoka Tomohiko Hoshina went down in defeat faster than he could say “domo arigato”, leaving Team Philippines down to only two men and a woman as it struggled pitifully in the face of powerful opposition in the 30th Olympic Games.
From an original cast of 11 athletes, only long jumper Marestella Torres, BMX rider Danny Caluag and 5,000-meter runner Rene Hererra remain standing for the Philippine team, which continued to take it on the chin deep into the opening week of the world’s biggest sporting event.
The latest to fall was Hoshina, who lost to South Korean Kim Sung-min by “ippon”, never recovering from a thud with barely 1 minute and 05 seconds gone in the six-minute duel in one of th e most-sided matches for the day.
“He’s too good for me,” said the 25-year-old Hoshina through a Olympic interpreter, the smile on his face that has endeared him to his teammates now missing. “That’s judo, you either win or lose.”