LOS ANGELES -- Shortly before midnight, Mark Barriga left the locker room and met the three reporters who were waiting for him backstage at the Staples Center.
"Da Baby Boy's" face had a cut and was swelling at the left cheek bone, the result of a head bash during his fight against Carlos Licona. The sting he felt from the verdict was no less telling on his face.
The boxer from Panabo City, Philippines had been judged the winner on one scorecard, 115-113, but lost on the other two by the same score. The vacant IBF strawweight title was awarded to his opponent by a split decision.
Barriga (9-1, 1 knockout) had hoped that a championship win would bring redemption after he failed to medal during the 2012 Olympics. Instead, he would return home with a list of improvements to make.
"Today, I failed in this fight but maybe tomorrow, someday ... " Barriga said, his thought trailing off to what lies ahead. "I'm going back to the gym to train hard. I will do my best again. This is part of my experience."
Trainer Joven Jimenez admitted Barriga had not been as aggressive as he was in his previous fight, a virtuoso shutout of Gabriel Mendoza to become the mandatory challenger for the world title bout. But Jimenez still said Barriga deserved the victory and lamented the fight's positioning as a swing bout --meaning there was no set time for when Barriga and Licona could expect to enter the ring.
Jimenez said Barriga warmed up and cooled down five times, at point even removing his gloves, before being told they'd go on after the main event concluded.
Sean Gibbons, the matchmaker who has guided Barriga's career since he signed with MP Promotions, didn't have a clear answer about what comes next for his boxer either. "Who knows?," said Gibbons. "Get back at it."
A-listers like Shaquille O'Neal and Floyd Mayweather, who made their ways to ringside for the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder heavyweight championship fight, had already exited by the time Barriga and Licona entered the ring for the final world title fight of the night.
"He was different from his last fight," said Jimenez. "There was no follow-up, just one punch [at a time]."
Barriga plans to rest for two weeks after returning to the Philippines. Time away from the sport has been scarce, ever since age five when his grandfather introduced him to boxing. His training became even more intense when he was 9 and he moved into the Panabo Boxing Gym, seeing his family only during the holidays.
Now, once again during the holiday season, Barriga is headed home to spend time with his parents. His mother has been ailing with a heart problem, and his father has been dealing with numerous cysts which have caused significant pain. Barriga will use his purse to pay for their surgeries, and may even get a cyst removed from his arm.
"Mom already called Jerwin [Ancajas] earlier but I didn't speak to her yet because I know she'll just cry, and it's not good for her heart problem. So I told her we'll talk later instead," said Barriga.
As Barriga and team walked out of the Staples Center, any sense of sadness was deferred for the moment. They took selfies in the purple hew of the L.A. Live lights and talked in amazement of Fury's ability to rise from the canvas to salvage a draw.
They were the last customers in the door at Mayflower Seafood Restaurant a short drive away. It's a favorite of Manny Pacquiao's whenever he's in town, and the fried fish and shrimp was already on the table by the time Barriga walked in the door. To the dozen or so supporters awaiting him, Barriga was their winner.
Barriga had walked to the ring to the Queen song "Under Pressure." In defeat, he has at least momentarily put aside the pressure that he's been under since his London loss.
That fight will continue another day. Now, life goes on.
"I started boxing at five years old, now I'm 25. So we didn't get to see each other that much in the last 20 years. I need to spend more time with [my family] this time," said Barriga. "We all know we get old so I don't want to have regrets when it comes to family."