Pugs Barriga, Cantancio advance
By: Cedelf P. Tupas (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

NAYPYITAW—No Filipino boxer will come home empty-handed from the 27th Southeast Asian Games here.

As expected, light flyweight Mark Barriga and lightweight Junel Cantancio advanced to the semifinals by pulling off contrasting victories on Tuesday at Wunna Theikdi Stadium.

Far from his best, Barriga mustered enough strength to hammer out a 29-28 decision over 2011 SEA Games silver medalist Huynh Ngoc Tan of Vietnam in the quarterfinals.

Cantancio, defending the gold Charly Suarez won two years ago in Palembang, proved too sharp for Keochi Xayyasone of Laos, coming away with a 30-27 win.

For the first time in the history of the SEA Games, the competition is implementing rule changes made by the International Boxing Association (Aiba), which has done away with the headgear and introduced a 10-point scoring system early this year.

With the victories, all 10 Filipino boxers are now assured of medals.

Only Nesthy Petecio has reached the finals of the women’s featherweight so far, assuring her of a silver medal.

Light welterweight Dennis Galvan, flyweight Rey Saludar, bantamweight Mario Fernandez, welterweight Wilfredo Lopez, bantamweight Iris Magno, flyweight Maricris Igam and light flyweight Josie Gabuco are also in the semifinals of their respective divisions.

Barriga needed a strong third round to eliminate his Vietnamese foe.

The Panabo, Davao del Norte fighter—the country’s lone pug in the London Olympics last year—later blamed his sluggish form to jet lag as he was coming off a long trip from Italy, where he trained for a month.

“I felt sleepy and my legs were heavy,” said Barriga, who has a couple of more days to recover before fighting on Friday for a place in the finals. “I think I fought well, it’s just that my conditioning was really poor.”