THE Philippines’ bid for an Olympic medal suffered a major blow on Saturday night as Mark Anthony Barriga lost to Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan in boxing’s 49 kg division of the 30th Summer Olympics.
The 19-year-old Barriga suffered a close 17-16 setback to Zhakypov after leading 10-8 entering the third and final round of their round-of-16 match.
Barriga became the eighth casualty of the 11-member national squad, which was pinning so much hope on the young boxer from Panabo City to end its humiliating run of setbacks that began in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Barriga was deducted two points and Zhakypov one in the final round that proved to be the decisive factor in the tightly fought match.
The 5-foot fighter from Panabo City started slow and trailed by a hairline, 4-5, after the first round before taking the lead in the second round by showing flashes of the form he had displayed days ago when he clobbered Italian Manuel Cappai.
Behind by two, the 28-year-old Kazakh went on the offensive in the third and Barriga failed to respond properly, the bout degenerating into a wrestling match that saw the fighters hit the canvas together at least twice.
Had the young Barriga won the fight, he would have set up a quarterfinal match against world and Olympic champion Zou Shiming of China, the same fighter who stopped him in the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament.
Zou defeated Cuba's Yosbany Veitia Soto, 14-11.
The loss left long jumper Marestella Torres, 5,000-meter bet Rene Herrera and BMX rider Danny Caluag to carry the fight for the embattled Philippine squad.