By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

WITH his professional boxing career off to a decent start, Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga now angles to take it at a notch higher by positioning himself for a title shot in a big fight scheduled for next month.
In what would be his ninth fight since making the decision to turn professional, Mr. Barriga will take on Colombian Gabriel Mendoza in an International Boxing Federation (IBF) minimum weight world title eliminator on May 13 here in Manila.
It will be the headlining fight for the “Survival Instinct” boxing offering of Joven Sports Promotions that will happen at the SM North EDSA Skydome.
The boxing card is also part of ESPN5’s newly launched “Live Boxing Month” fare that will feature explosive bouts of top fighters in the world.
In the press conference for the fight card and Live Boxing Month on Tuesday, Davao native Mr. Barriga said he is very excited for his upcoming fight, the significant of which is not lost to him.
“This is a big fight for me and I’m very thankful for the opportunity. I have been training hard with my team for it and I will try my best not to let our hard work go to waste,” said Mr. Barriga (8-0, 1 KO).
By while he has stayed undefeated since moving to the professional ranks in July of 2016, Mr. Barriga, a decorated national team athlete who saw action in the London Olympics in 2012, said the transition is still ongoing for him.
He pinpointed at stamina and power as some of the things he is still working on to get used to.
“One thing that separates amateur and professional boxing is how long the fights are. In the amateur you only have three rounds which in itself are already tiring. But in the pros it’s far longer,” said the 24-year-old fighter.
“Also in the amateur, speed is given more premium as you go for points while in professional boxing there’s more emphasis on power and being calculated,” he added.
But he was quick to say that he has been progressing steadily with the help of his team, led by coach Joven Jimenez of Survival Camp and stablemate Jerwin “Pretty Boy” Ancajas, the IBF super-flyweight champion.
Zeroing on his opponent Mr. Mendoza (29-5-2, 23 KOs), Mr. Barriga said he is not expecting the fight to be easy so they are not leaving anything to chance and making every effort to come in prepared.
“He (Mendoza) is no ordinary fighter. His 29-win record is a testament to that. It will be a difficult fight. But I know I can do it,” he said.
In the event he emerges triumphant against Mr. Mendoza, he will be the mandatory challenger against reigning IBF champion Hiroto Kyoguchi of Japan.
Survival Instinct, which will air beginning at 3 p.m., will also feature the comeback fight of Marvin Sonsona as well as AJ “Bazooka” Banal.