Can Mark 'Little Pacquiao' Barriga Become Philippines' Next Pac Man?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2012

Barriga misses with a right-hand punch to the head of Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov.
Barriga misses with a right-hand punch to the head of Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov.Scott Heavey/Getty Images

The Philippines is hungry for a new boxing star.

The tiny nation may have one in Mark "Little Pacquiao" Barriga.

During the London Olympics, Barriga was the only representative the Philippines had in boxing. He did not have anywhere near the training or backing of some of the boxers from countries that could afford to train their boxers to a championship level.

However, Barriga came to the Olympic boxing tournament with speed, quickness, determination and the ability to wing power punches in the light flyweight division.

Barriga made a big impression in his first bout, pounding out a 17-7 victory over Italy's Manuel Cappai due to his advantage of speed, punching accuracy and hunger in the ring.

In the next round, Barriga faced Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan, who was given a 17-16 decision to end Barriga's medal aspirations. However, many observers thought Barriga had defeated Zhakypov clearly and that he had earned a spot in the third round.

The Philippines boxing team filed a protest over the decision, but that move was rejected out of hand. Barriga had been penalized for ducking and head-butting in the third round of that fight.

Despite his 1-1 Olympic record, Barriga is seen as a fighter with potential in the sport of boxing to rise to a high level and give his country a new star.

However, does Barriga have the ability and drive to become the Phillippines' next Manny "Pac Man" Pacquiao?

On the surface, that seems a bit much because Barriga is just a 19-year-old with heart, athletic ability and a relentless fighting style.

He is going to need to become even more determined in his training, develop more punching power and show the hunger of the champion who carries the Phillippines' athletic standards on his shoulders.

Barriga is a 5'2" slugger, and you immediately notice his ability to wing punches in bunches. However, the biggest issue for Barriga may be developing more power. That's one of the best attributes that Pacquiao has in the ring.

When he is delivering punches with speed and accuracy, Pacquiao has the ability to hurt his opponent with either hand.

Barriga does not have that kind of overwhelming power at this point. He needs to get a lot stronger.

Pacquiao is supportive of Barriga, and he sent him a message of support following his Olympic defeat to Zhakypov. “He (Barriga) should not lose hope, there are still a lot of chances and he should take it (his loss) as charge to experience and a challenge to further improve his boxing skills so that he would know what to do next,” Pacquiao told

He has many of the same attributes that Pacquiao has, including confidence, quickness and what appears to be a champion's heart.

But he will need the great training, determination and love of the sport that Pacquiao has.

These attributes can only be determined by boxing and training every day. So far, so good for Barriga, but there are many more miles to go.