Onyok’s Cuban Coach Picks Barriga

LONDON - The Cuban who coached Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco to a silver medal in the 1996 Atlanata Olympics didn't bat an eyelash and chose Mark Barriga to prevail over his round of 16 foe from Kazakhstan.

Raul Liranza, here as part of Cuba's boxing coaching staff, said he sees no reason why Barriga would not beat Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan when they mix it up on Saturday in the light-flyweight division of the 30th Olympic Games boxing competitions.

He picked Barriga not because it was Team Philippines chief of mission Manny Lopez, his former boss at the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP), who asked the question.

Liranza said he 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 fighter.

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."

Now 58 years old, Liranza stayed for four years in Manila as Team PH's coach. He also handled the three Filipino boxers who qualified in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but all three lost in the second round.

After that, his services were terminated.

Interestingly, many sports officials, including Philippine Sports Commission chairman Ricardo Garcia and Philippine Olympic Committee chairman Monico Puentevella, are now pushing for hiring Cubans to again coach or train Filipino boxers.

"He's really a good coach. Otherwise, Cuba won't bring him here anymore," said Lopez.

He said Liranza is willing to return to Manila to coach but on one condition: That he would return only if Manny Lopez is back at the helm of the local amateur boxing body.

If that is the case, forget that Liranza will return to Manila anytime soon.

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