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Sports

Believing in Magsayo

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo is finally fighting for a world championship. The undefeated 26-year-old Boholano is getting into the ring to wrest the World Boxing Council featherweight belt from Gary Russell Jr. at the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey tomorrow, Philippine time. A victory will complete a dramatic turnaround that saw the regional champion almost give up boxing a little over three years ago.

At the start of 2019, Magsayo (23 wins, 16 knockouts) ended his relationship with ALA Promotions after a year of not getting any fights. He partnered with a Southeast Asian promoter and carved out a one-sided unanimous decision against former two-time WBO world bantamweight champion Panya Uthok (Pangluang Sor Singyu) in Bohol. He was later approached by the financier of a known commercial basketball team who made a substantial offer to manage him. But after signing a contract, the funder mysteriously disappeared, and was reportedly incarcerated for swindling. In December of 2020, with his father seriously ill in Bohol and a seeming lack of options, Magsayo slumped on the floor of his home in tears and almost gave up boxing altogether.

Fortunately, Sen. Manny Pacquiao called for Mark, signing him to MP Promotions. In July of 2020, the former child ice cream vendor flew to California to train under the legendary Freddie Roach at Wild Card Gym. Since then, Magsayo has stayed undefeated despite three increasingly difficult fights. In October of 2020, he carved out a difficult split decision win against last-minute opponent Rigoberto Hermosillo. In April of 2021, Magnifico brutally scored a TKO win over Pablo Cruz. The Filipino completed his ascent to world contender status last August. Surviving a rare knockdown, Magsayo savagely knocked out the former WBA super bantamweight champion in 10 rounds. His victory was hailed KO of the Year by the PBC.

Magsayo, meanwhile, has carried himself as the same innocent, down-to-earth person he has always been. He interacts with fans, supports fellow Filipino fighters in the US, and constantly thanks his management and coaching team. His humorous shoutouts and comments on other fights have grown his social media following. So far, he has also been a dream to handle. Even when former WBA interim world featherweight champion Jhack Tepora ragged on him just to get attention, Magsayo took it in stride and mended fences, showing the world magnanimity.

Russell, meanwhile, won the world featherweight title in 2015, but has been fighting just once a year since. The champion has not fought since February of 2020. He will have difficulty with Magsayo’s power and stamina, that’s for sure. And one of the best lessons that Freddie Roach and Marvin Somodio have instilled in Magsayo is to wait for his opening and let the fight come to him. The last remaining challenge Mark faces is being hit by a true, world-class featherweight. He has beaten former world champions who have moved up in weight on multiple occasions. This will be his biggest test yet. But even other Filipino former world champions like Morris East and Rolando Bohol have expressed support for Magsayo’s quest to be a world champion.

We look forward to a coronation this weekend.

MARK “MAGNIFICO” MAGSAYO

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