LONDON-Although light-flyweight Mark Barriga was singing "I'll Do My Crying In The Rain" as he emerged from his room, he remains a picture of one who's certainly not going to let Team Philippines cry when he climbs the ring next week in the 30th Olympic Games.
In his initial appearance in the biggest sports stage of all, the 19-year-old Barriga will fight Manuel Cappai, a young Italian champion who moves and fights like defending champion and top seed Zou Shiming of China.
But definitely he's not as good as the Chinese ring wonder in the eyes of the coach Roel Velasco.
"Parang si Zou kung maglaro. Suntok, takbo, suntok, takbo. Counter-puncher. Pero hindi kasinggaling ni Zou. Kaya yung Italian," said coach Roel Velasco after watching Cappai's most recent bout in the YouTube.
The 19-year-old Barriga, a native from Panabo City, Davao del Norte, has gone from the ends of the earth fighting in big and small tournaments in the course of his search for an Olympic slot, but hasn't met Cappai, also 19 years old, in any of these.
But he got a glimpse of the Italian for the first time during the general weigh-in ahead of the draw on Friday afternoon.
"Mataas. Ako naman talaga ang pinakamaliit sa grupo," the 5-2 Barriga said of the 5-5 1/2 Cappai, bursting into a loud laugh as Velasco and amateur boxing executive director Ed Picson looked animated. "Magalaw din ang kilos. Okay lang, handa din naman ako."
Nothing much is known about Cappai, except that hewon the bronze medal in the European Olympic qualifying event, losing to Bulgarian and eventual champion Aleksander Aleksandrov in the semifinals on points.
If Barriga gets past Cappai, whose father Fabrizio had once fought for the world featherweight title in the professional ranks, the going gets tougher in the second round as he faces the winner of the bout betwen Kazakhstan's Birzhan Zhakypov and Jeremy Beccu of France.
If he gets lucky and makes it to the quarterfinals, guess who's possibly waiting for him? Either Shiming or Cuban Yosbany Veitia Soto, another rated boxer in the upper half of the draw in the 26-man division.
The top four seeds - Shiming, No. 2 Shin Jonghun of South Korea, No. 3 David Ayrapetyan of Russia and No. 4 Serdamba Purevdorj of Mongolia - drew opening day in the lightest of the 10 classes in a sport which will see the debut of women's boxing in the Olympics.
Picson acknowledged the toughness of Barriga's group,but was quick to point out that the Filipino fighter will be up to the task given the kind of hard work made and the dedication shown as he takes a crack at the ultimate prize in his sport.
"He's ready as can be. He had a good training. He had eight least eight sparring sessions. He's in shape. Malaki ang tiwala ko," said Picson of Barriga,who comes off a victory in the prestigious Sydney Jackson Memorial tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan a few months ago.
That victory somehow gave Barriga the boost and the good feeling that he can take on everyone since he outpointed no less than the veteran Ayrapetyan in the final, 12-9, to win the division for the second straight year.