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Mark Anthony Barriga wants to face Hiroto Kyoguchi in neutral venue to eliminate excuses

Mark Anthony Barriga. Photo by Ryan Songalia
Fighters Network

NEW YORK – After becoming the mandatory challenger for the IBF strawweight title, Mark Anthony Barriga and team now must wait for their opportunity.

Barriga didn’t need to get out of first gear to defeat Gabriel Mendoza, on May 13, to win the elimination fight in Quezon City, Philippines, shutting out the heavy-handed Colombian on two cards and winning 11 on the third. The fight earned him a shot at Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7 knockouts), who retained his title for a second time on May 20, getting off the canvas to defeat Vince Paras by unanimous decision.

Sean Gibbons, the matchmaker for MP Promotions, says the mandatory isn’t due until July 31, and that he’ll send an offer to Kyoguchi’s promoter Watanabe Promotions, but doesn’t expect a deal to come before the fight heads to purse bid.

“I wish the timing was a little closer. I wish we were coming up on the mandatory on the 31st of this month, then we could get aggressive and try to make things happen,” said Gibbons last week, in Fresno, California, where Barriga’s stablemate Jerwin Ancajas was defending his IBF junior bantamweight title.

“The timing’s kind of bad because Mark just fought and we’d like to get him in the ring in September for the world title. But if we have to wait to do a purse bid some time around August 10th, then that pushes us back. When you win a purse bid for a fight of that magnitude, you need at least 60 to 70 real good days for (Philippine-based ESPN partner) TV5 to promote it.”

Barriga (9-0, 1 KO) had been one of the Philippines’ top amateur fighters, having competed at the 2012 Olympics in London, and fighting for the Italia Thunder in the 2013-14 season for World Series of Boxing. The 24-year-old from Panabo City, Philippines, is just the second Filipino Olympian this century to turn pro, and has been a tough opponent to land a punch on due to his slick-moving southpaw style.

“You don’t see too many Filipinos with that Ivan Calderon, Vasyl Lomachenko, Mayweather style. That style, not a lot of guys do that in any country. He reminds me a little of the great Ivan Calderon; he does a lot of things like that. Ivan was a little more advanced, at this point; I think. Mark, as he gets more experience, he won’t have to move as much; he can just lay in the pocket and do things. I really think that’s style is going to be really difficult,” said Gibbons.

“I don’t think the Japanese have seen a Mark Barriga; not a lot of people have.”

While Gibbons, with the backing of ESPN5, says he’d like to see the Kyoguchi-Barriga fight happen in the Philippines. Barriga himself would prefer to have the fight take place in a neutral country, so no one would have any excuses about hometown verdicts afterward.

“If you ask me, I’d rather it not be in Japan or the Philippines. I would want to to be in a neutral country with neutral referees. No one blaming each other, win or lose, we have to accept that. If we lose, then that means we gotta work harder. We shouldn’t be a bad loser; we have to be a sport about it,” said Barriga.

“If we do it in Japan, and let’s say the actual fight was a win for us but we didn’t get a KO, then we’ll lose when they make the decision. Same goes for the Philippines; there are judges like that. But if we do it in a neutral country, then I think the judges will decide fairly and not take sides.

Barriga admits his trainer Joven Jimenez offered some critiques of his performance against Mendoza, who is a two-time title challenger, and that he has taken them to heart as lessons for the future.

“He saw improvements that needed to be made. Coach Joven always gives it to me straight. It doesn’t matter if he’ll upset me; he’ll tell me what I need to do,” said Barriga.

Gibbons, who is currently at the IBF Convention in Italy, says he’s yet to see Barriga need to take it to the next level as a pro but looks forward to seeing someone bring it out of him, once he gets a serious test.

“If you’re slow on your feet and just plodding along, you’re not gonna see Mark all night long. It’ll be really interesting to see (Barriga against) a top-notch guy; we’ll really find out how good Mark is. Mark can be a lot better than what we saw out there because Mark was in cruise control (against Mendoza) because it was so easy,” said Gibbons.

“Now when he gets in with a real guy, we’ll see; we don’t know. We have an idea of what he can do. We know that he’s experienced but until you get that signature fight, then we’ll find out.”




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