NAY PYI DAW – London Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga banners a sturdy group of Filipinos who advanced to the finals of the boxing competition of the 27th Southeast Asian Games Thursday at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium here.
Barriga, the country's brightest bet to win the gold medal, survived Mohd Faud Mohd Reuvan of Malaysia via split decision in the light flyweight class, joining lady pugs Nesthy Petecio and Josie Gabuco in the finals on Saturday.
Also making it to the gold-medal matches were bantamweight Mario Fernandez, lightweight Junel Cantancio, light welterweight Dennis Galvan and welterweight Wilfredo Lopez as they stayed on track of matching – or even surpassing – their four gold finish in the 2011 edition of the biennial meet.
Fernandez crushed Tran Quocc Viet of Vietnam, Cantancio prevailed over Muhamad Ridhawan Ahmad of Singapore, Galvan dominated Ericok Amonupunyo of Indonesia, while Lopez frustrated Alex Tatantos of Indonesia. All of them won via unanimous decision.
Crowding Team Philippines for boxing’s overall title is Thailand, which sent nine boxers to the finals, with four of them ranged against Filipinos.
"It's going to be another Philippines-Thailand series," Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines executive director Ed Picson said. "But again, I want to see total domination. I want our boxers to remove doubts on the minds of the judges. I want them to win convincingly in this very important tournament."
Flyweight Rey Saludar was the lone Filipino casualty when he fell prey to hometown bet Mg Nge also via unanimous decision. It was a painful loss for the veteran Saludar, who had to settle for the bronze medal after winning the gold in the 2006 Doha and 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
"It was a hometown decision," said Picson.
"I thought we should have won two fights – that of Saludar and (Irish) Magno (last Thursday). That's why I want them to win convincingly, total domination from start to finish. We want to make it easier for the judges to give us the victory over our opponent."
After huffing and puffing his way to a quarterfinal victory over Huynh Ngoc Tan of Vientam, Barriga showed up in a much better form, but had some minor lapses against his gritty Malaysian foe.
In the second round, he got elbowed in the head, somehow limiting his movements and reducing his fighting prowess. Although the wound bled after the match, it was nothing serious and Picson declared him fit and ready for the finals.
"He's keeping his focus," Picson said. "He's ready to win the gold."