ASKED to make a choice, respected Cuban coach Raul Liranza didn’t bat an eyelash in picking Filipino Mark Barriga over Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazaksthan when they mix it up on Saturday in the light-flyweight division of the 30th Olympic Games boxing competitions.
He’s going for Barriga not because it was Team Philippines chief of mission Manny Lopez, his former boss in amateur boxing, who asked him the question.
Liranza, one of the coaches of the highly-rated Cuban squad competing here, was simply amazed with the way Barriga beat Italy’s Manuel Cappai, 17-7 on Tuesday afternoon before a huge crowd at the ExCel center.
“He’s good. Very strong. Good counter-puncher,” said Liranza of the Filipino figher.
And the Kazakh?
“Weak in the body. Your boy can beat him,” said Liranza as Lopez smiled. “I saw him fight against France (Jeremy Beccu). He had a hard time. He almost lost.”
Liranza is known in Manila as the coach who engineered Onyok Velasco’s silver medal victory in the same division during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Now 58 years old, Liranza stayed for four years in Manila as Team Philippines coach, the last in 2000 when he missed guiding any of the three Filipino boxers past the second round in the Sydney Olympics.
“He’s really a good coach. Otherwise, Cuba won’t bring him here anymore,” said Lopez, adding that Liranza is willing to return to Manila to coach on one condition.
If Manny is back at the helm of the local amateur boxing body.