ON to the big stage.
Mark Anthony Barriga outclassed Gabriel Mendoza of Colombia via unanimous decision Sunday night to earn a shot at a first ever world championship fight.
The 24-year-old Olympian was obviously the better fighter between the two as the Filipino won the 12-round bout by a shutout behind scores of 120-108, 120-108, and 119-109.
Barriga kept his unbeaten record at 9-0 (1 KO) and more importantly, gained the no. 1 ranking of the IBF (International Boxing Federation) to become the mandatory challenger to the minimumweight title currently held by Hiroto Kyoguchi of Japan.
Kyoguchi (9-0, 7 KOs) is set to defend his crown against Filipino Vince Paras on May 20 in Japan, with the winner possibly facing Barriga in a separate title bout to be held sometime in July.
But whoever he faces, Barriga, who represented the country in the 2012 London Olympics, said he’s ready for the biggest challenge of his pro career.
“Five months akong naghintay kasi nga laging napo-postpone,” said Barriga following the win he fashioned out before a modest crowd at the North Edsa Skydome on Mother’s Day.
"Lagi kaming nag-uusap ni coach Joven (Jimenez). Every round kasi sinasabi niya 'ito na yung pinakahihintay mo, kailangan gawin mo yung best mo, kasi pag matalo ka rito, wala na tapos ng lahat."
Barriga was initially set to take on former IBF title holder Jose Argumedo last April, but negotiations for the fight fell through, paving the way for Mendoza to face the Filipino from Danao, Cebu.
"Ngayong no. 1 contender na (ako) magre-ready na kami sa next fight ko," said Barriga, who tried to go for a knockout against the 38-year-old Mendoza.
"Maraming round na tingin ko babagsak na, pero talagang beterano," he said of the Colombian, whose record fell to 29-6-2, with 23 KOs.