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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson



Barriga says ‘I’ll be back’

By Joaquin Henson
PhilBoxing.com
03 Dec 2018



LOS ANGELES. Even as the outcome stung like a low blow, Mark Anthony Barriga said he’s not about to question the split 12-round decision that gave the vacant IBF minimumweight title to Mexico’s Carlos Licona in a closely-fought contest at the Staples Center here Saturday night (yesterday morning, Manila time).

Barriga started slowly as Licona took the initiative in the early rounds but turned the tables starting the sixth round when he found his rhythm and began to land combinations that fazed the Mexican. The late surge, however, failed to convince two of the judges who scored it for Licona. Edward Hernandez of Moreno Valley, California, and Esther Lopez of New Mexico saw it 115-113 for Licona while Tom Carusone of Connecticut had it 115-113 for Barriga. The three judges concurred in giving three rounds to Licona----the first, fourth and seventh----and three rounds to Barriga----the second, ninth and 12th. There was no clear consensus in the other rounds.

Hernandez and Lopez gave two of the last four rounds to Licona while Carusone saw it a sweep for Barriga. If Hernandez and Lopez scored even three of the last four rounds for Barriga, the result would’ve been a majority draw.

“I respect the decision,” said Barriga, bidding to become the fastest Filipino ever to win a world crown in his 10th bout. “I’m not a hard loser. It’s a loss, that’s it. No excuses, you learn from it. I’m just so sorry that I didn’t win. I feel I let down Sir Sean (Gibbons) and coach Joven (Jimenez) because they worked very hard to get this opportunity to win a world championship for me. I did my best, no regrets. I knew Licona took the early rounds because I took time to size him up. But I was able to take control in the middle rounds. I’ve learned a lot from experience in the past and this is no exception.”

After the fight, Barriga led his team----Jimenez, IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas, cutman Todd Makelim, assistant trainer Delfin Boholst, stablemate Charly Suarez and ring announcer Mark Lontayao----in a thanksgiving prayer to the Lord in the lockerroom. At first, Barriga said he would rethink his priorities and set aside plans to continue boxing. But words of encouragement from Gibbons and Jimenez toned down his depression.

“I thought Mark won,” said Jimenez in Filipino. “He had the cleaner shots and dictated. Licona was aggressive but hindi niya matamaan si Mark ng solid. Nakuha ni Licona mga early rounds pero ‘yun lang. Mark has a long career to go. He’s still young. We’ll study where he can improve so that when he fights again, his wins will be more convincing.”

Gibbons, who tirelessly worked to arrange the title shot for Barriga, said there’s nothing to be sorry about. “Mark won the fight but the judges, two of them, saw it the other way,” he said. “It’s just too bad we couldn’t get neutral judges because there was too little time. It hurts that you work 99 percent to get the right fight then there’s that one percent where something goes wrong. We had no choice but to accept the judges who were assigned.”

With no intent to claim racial preference, the two Hispanic judges scored it for Licona. One judge, Hernandez, lives in Moreno Valley where Licona’s manager Mikey Garcia lives. Garcia is the IBF/WBC lightweight champion and his brother Robert trains Licona. Referee Jerry Cantu lives in Westminster, California where Licona also lives. Cantu recently worked a fight which Licona’s younger sister Lina won in her second pro outing. Cantu appeared to tolerate Licona’s headbutting which opened a cut on Barriga’s left cheekbone in the seventh round. Barriga said he was butted at least thrice. In the eighth round, Barriga turned away after he was hit by a foul blow but Cantu didn’t wave off Licona who charged in to take advantage of the situation.

“I’ll be back,” said Barriga, fighting back tears. “I’ll leave my future to Sir Sean and coach Joven. They know what’s best. It’s not easy to win a decision in your opponent’s hometown. I accept the loss. At least, it was a split decision, not unanimous, meaning it could’ve gone either way. To lose by split decision in your opponent’s hometown is a consolation.”

Photo: Mark Anthony Barriga (left) and newly-crowned IBF minimumweight champion Carlos Licona.


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