INCHEON, Korea—Mark Barriga fell victim to the ‘Korean Express,’ losing the semifinals to a bruised and badly beaten fighter from the host country which seemed determined to dominate the boxing competitions of the 17th Asian Games.
‘Gangnam Style’ was used to the hilt by the hosts in the competitions as they sent four of five fighters in the semifinals to the gold medal fights in their bid to separate Korea farther from Japan at second place of the overall medal tally behind the lone superpower China.
China leads all countries with 137 gold, 96 silver and 78 bronze medals, while Korea has 69-64-73 with Japan safely at third with 44-65-67 at dusk.
Charly Suarez earned himself a chance at the gold medal when he beat a game Obada Mohammad Mustafah Al Kasbah of Jordan, 2-1, in the men’s lightweight semifinals.
Suarez is assured of the silver medal but will nevertheless give his all as he attempts to beat Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu of Mongolia, 3-0, winner over Satoshi Shimizu of Japan, in today’s final.
“I am confident boxing will deliver a gold medal. Boxing is consistent in the games, we relied on our boxers to deliver like they did in the past. They fought exceptional fights here but some factors got in the way of our bids,” said Chief of Mission Ricardo ‘Ritchie’ Garcia, who is also the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman.
The Philippines has one gold medal–courtesy of BMX rider Daniel Caluag—two silvers and nine bronzes, counting three fresh but unacceptable bronze medals from boxing.
Barriga—considered the sure bet for the gold medal here– was made the sacrificial lamb in favor of the hosts.
Barriga faced a badly bruised and beaten Shin Jonghun of Korea, who came out aggressive but received the sure shots from the Filipino fighter.
But like in the previous cases of several Korean triumphs here, Shin was declared winner via unanimous decision. Shin will face Birzhan Shakypov of Kazakstan in the lightflyweight final.
The story was the same in Mario Fernandez’s 0-3 loss to Zhang Jiawei of China. Fernandez was the more aggressive fighter in their bantamweight semifinal match, but it was the Chinese who was favorably set up for the gold medal match against Ham Sangmyeong of Korea.
Wifredo Lopez had a gallant stand against Odai Riyad Adel Alhindaqi of Jordan but lost a split decision in their middleweight semifinal match and settled for the bronze.
“We already brought the matter to the OCA’s attention. OCA officials are closely watching the Games because we cannot let a travesty like this happen in sport. I just hope the OCA will do something to help keep the purity of sports intact,” said Garcia.
Just the same, aside from Shin and Ham, the other Koreans who made it to the gold medal fights were light-heavyweight Kim Heyongku and lightwelterweight Lim Hyunchul.
The only Korean who lost his semifinal bout was heavyweight Park Namhyeong who failed to answer the charges of Anton Pinchuk of Kazakhstan in the last semifinal bout. Pinchuk was even surprised he was declared winner to advance versus Ali Mazaheri of Iran following his unanimous win over the Korean.
Judging in boxing has been under fire from many countries who have lost their matches to Korean bets.
In the medal ceremony for the women’s lightweight, for instance, Indian boxer Sarita Devi broke down on the podium on Wednesday and refused to wear the bronze medal when it was awarded to her.
She only accepted the medal with a clutched hand and mockingly handed it to silver medalist Ji Na Park, who had defeated Sarita in a controversial semis bout on Tuesday.
Sarita is facing possible sanctions.
A taekwondo jin scooped yet another bronze with Daniel Sembrano winning two fights before losing the men’s -68kg semifinals to a Chinese fighter, denying the Filipino a chance of breaking Philippine taekwondo’s Asiad gold medal jinx.
No Filipino jin has ever won a gold medal in the Asiad and Sembrano, playing in his first Asian Games, came quite near the gold medal fight.
He was stopped by China’s Huang Jiannan, 16-3, in their semifinal match. Huang settled for the silver when he lost to Iran’s Behnan Asbaghikhanghah, 5-4, in the final.
Sembrano, who a couple of days ago needed medical attention due to difficulty in breathing, drew a bye in the round of 32, before he defeated Abdullah Gh M Hassan of Kuwait, 12-10, in the round of 16.
A 12-9 triumph over Tang Jai Chetrapee of Thailand in the quarterfinals set him up for the sure bronze medal.
Not as fortunate was Jane Rafaelle Narra in the -67kg quarterfinal which she lost to Guo Yun Fei of China, 5-0.
Guo eventually won the gold medal, beating Lee Wonjin of Korea, 2-1, in the final.
Sembrano’s contribution was the fourth bronze medal for the Philippine team after the bronze medal feats earlier by Samuel Thomas Harper Morrison in the men’s -74kg, Mary Anjelay Pelaez in the women’s -46kg and Levita Ronna Ilao in the women’s -49kg.
Other silver medal winners were Paul Marton dela Cruz in archery’s men’s compound individual play and Francisco Solis in the men’s Sanda -56kg event of wushu.
The country’s two silver medals also came from wushu, courtesy of Jean Claude Saclag in the men’s Sanda -60kg, and Daniel Parantac in the men’s taijiquan and taijijian all-round.