MARK Barriga tries to remove one stumbling block in his bid for a world championship as he takes on Gabriel Mendoza of Columbia in a title eliminator match at the SM Skydome on Sunday.
The 12-round fight is only the ninth pro career bout for the Filipino Olympian, although a win meant becoming the mandatory challenger to reigning International Boxing Federation (IBF) minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi of Japan.
Barriga, 24, sports an 8-0 record (1 KO) and said he’s ready to face his biggest challenge yet.
“As a boxer bihira yung chance na naibigay sa akin kaya napakahalaga nito,” said Barriga on the eve of the match dubbed ‘Survival Instinct: Matira Matibay.’
It’s not going to be a walk in the park however for Barriga, who represented the country in the 2012 London Olympics.
Mendoza is an experienced warrior at 38, who had already fought for a world title before. His record stands at 29-5-2, with 23 KOs.
“I’ve already fought for a world title,” said the Colombian through interpreter and boxing writer Carlos Costas. “He’s 8-0, but he has to prove himself and not me.”
Both fighters made weight Saturday during the official weigh-in held at the TV5 Bldg. at Reliance St. in Mandaluyong and graced by reigning International Boxing Federation (IBF) super-flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas, his trainer Joven Jimenez – who also handles Barriga - international matchmaker Sean Gibbons, ESPN5 CEO Lloyd Manaloto
Ex-world champion Marvin Sonsona and former world title challenger Genesis Servania and AJ Banal are all seeing action in the undercard of the fight card presented by Joven Sports and MP Promotions, and to be telecast over ESPN5.
The 26-year-old Servania slugs it out with veteran Jason Butar Butar of Indonesia. Now handled by Japanese manager Naoyuki Kashimi, the native of Bacolod City gave unbeaten Mexican Oscar Valdez hell before losing by unanimous decision in their World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight title fight last year.
“Masayang-masaya ako at muling nabigyan ng pagkakataon na lumaban dito sa Pilipinas,” said Servania, who last fought in the country in 2015 against Mexican Juan Luis Hernandez in Davao City while still under the ALA Promotions stable.
Banal, 29, continues his ring comeback as he slugs it out with another Indonesian fighter in Master Suro. Like Servania, Banal also once fought as part of the ALA Promotions and twice challenged for a world championship.
Sonsona, the former two-time world champion, will be up against Arief Blader also of Indonesia, although the 27-year-old native of General Santos City was six-pound over the agreed catch weight of 141 lbs.
But Sonsona did everything to make weight as he had to lose a total of 40 lbs. in just three weeks.
“Mahirap pong mag lose ng ganung timbang in just three-week notice,” he said. “Di bale sana kung three months ang preparation, pero ito late notice (yung laban). Kaya hanggang dun lang talaga ang kayang ibawas.”