Magsayo fights for other boxers
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - August 3, 2019 - 12:00am

When Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo steps into the ring in “Pride of Bohol” on Aug. 31, it will be a symbolic victory for the welfare of other Filipino boxers. In an impressive open workout and an emotionally honest press conference at the Howzat Sports Bar Wednesday, he talked about the challenges he’s had to overcome recently. The last two years have been the most challenging of the young, undefeated pug’s career. Some people associated with his past continue to try to influence his future.

In 2018, Magsayo wrote his previous management, signifying his intention to not renew his contract with them. That was supposed to be that. His wife, Frances, recounts their struggles. 

“It was so hard for us,” she claims. “My husband wasn’t making that much, and I’m only a tattoo artist. We had to do something.”

The Magsayo group found a partner in Malaysia and formed Vladimir Boxing Promotions, which aims to better the lot of as many Filipino boxers as possible. They decried the poor treatment and underpayment of boxers in general, and hope to improve the future of Mark’s fellows. It will not be easy, but they knew this coming in. They know how hard it was to put together a compelling fight card. 

“We experienced firsthand how difficult it can be,” says Frances, who is also a Vladimir Promotions director. “If you aren’t taken care of, you’ll starve. Many boxers feel they have no choice.

There will always be managers and promoters who will squeeze what they can out of their boxers. In a way, some play the numbers, getting as many boxers as possible for pennies in the hope that one will make it big. Some promoters, on the other hand, pay their boxers well on paper, but deduct all their expenses in the end, even when they already make a fortune from sponsorships, ticket sales and TV contracts. This writer experienced this firsthand in 1998, when we organized the first stepladder tournament for pro boxers in the Philippines. Instead of housing and feeding the beaten-up boxers after Friday night fights, the promoter hired would simply dump the boxers at the pier, where they would endure sleeping in the open on benches and looking for cheap food until their Sunday boat rides home.

These practices are among the reasons Games and Amusements Board (GAB) chairman Baham Mitra called for a meeting among boxing stakeholders the morning of the Magsayo press conference. Mitra has taken a hands-on approach to upgrading the lives of prizefighters in an inclusive, consultative manner.

“The boxers should really be the superstars of the show, not the promoters,” Frances insists. “They’re the ones whom people come to see. If we treat them well, they’ll also feel better and perform better.”

Mrs. Magsayo cited Powell Balaba (9 wins, 30 losses, one draw) who is fighting on the undercard in Bohol. Balaba had basically been used as cannon fodder for much of his career. Vladimir Promotions is giving him a legitimate second chance, whereas no other promoter would take him seriously. The Magsayos are also aiming for a more equitable distribution of the money that promotions bring in. They also believe that streaming their card on Rappler will be a way to get the fights directly to the people. They’re trying everything to change the system of the sport.

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