IF there’s anyone who knows Philippine amateur boxing up close and personal, it’s former Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga.

The 23-year-old Barriga, who decided to turn pro instead of continuing his amateur career, believes that in order for the country to bring home a gold medal in the Olympics, the Philippines must pay more attention and give more support to our amateur fighters.

“It is true that we lack support. I have been with the Philippine team for a long time and we really lacked the support from the country,” Barriga said. “A boxer can give his 100 percent inside the ring but we can’t say that his body is 100 percent if he lacks the equipment and the sparring partners to train.”

Barriga, who turned pro last weekend, was a one of the mainstays of the Philippine amateur boxing team and at one time was one of the Philippines’ best bets for bringing home that elusive gold medal in the Olympics.He was eliminated in the second round of the 2012 London Olympics after losing to Kazakh Birzhan Zhakypov by just a single point, 17-16, in the light flyweight division.

Barriga was a bronze medalist in the 2014 Asian Games and a gold medalist in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games.

Barriga owns a win over two-time bronze medalist Paddy Barnes and fought but lost to two-time Olympic gold medalist Zhou Shiming in the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships.

The Philippines has only two boxers in the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil – light flyweight Rogen Ladon and lightweight Charly Suarez.

Barriga believes that Ladon and Suarez’s chances of getting a gold medal are evenly divided and it’ll depend on the intangibles.

“It’s going to be 50-50. It depends on the conditioning of the boxer,” said Barriga.

Barriga feels that the competition then was more stiff than it is now in Ladon and Suarez’s weight divisions. Shiming, the best light flyweight in the last Olympics, has already turned pro and so did lightweight king Vasyl Lomachenko.

“I believe the competition right now isn’t that tough. But they will still be up against Class A boxers. These boxers are chosen from the best of the best. It also depends on the drawing of lots,” said Barriga.

Barriga had a successful pro debut last Saturday night in one of the featured fights of “Who’s Next?” 2. He toyed with Melvin Manangquil, beating him by a unanimous decision at the Robinsons Galleria.