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Sports

Magsayo to defy odds?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star
Magsayo to defy odds?
Mark Magsayo flashes a smile as he easily makes weight on the eve of his title bout against WBC featherweight champion Gary Russel Jr. in Atlantic City, New Jersey this morning.
STAR / File

The odds are against Mark Magsayo dethroning WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. in their title clash in Atlantic City this morning (Manila time) but the man called Magnifico isnt fazed by the betting line. Russell is the -380 favorite and the consensus along cauliflower row is hell win on points. Hes slick, quick and smart while oddsmakers say Magsayo isnt as experienced to turn the tables on the veteran. Russell happens to be the longest reigning world boxing champion of any division today, his tenure dating back to 2015. The problem is the southpaw hasnt fought in nearly two years and at 33, inactivity can diminish the mobility of his legs.

At the weigh-in, Magsayo looked sharp in scaling 125 1/2 pounds on his first attempt. In contrast, Russell appeared listless and tipped in 1/2 pound over the featherweight limit. It took an hour later for Russell, stripped down to his underwear, to check in at 125 1/2 on his second try. Trimming off a pound in an hour had to be a struggle if Russell was squeezed dry from the start. It will show when the bell rings.

How efficiently both fighters will execute their gameplans is key. Russell likes to stick and run, using distance to his advantage. Magsayo, 26, is a relentless, heavy-handed pressure brawler whos survived trips to the canvas in two fights to stay undefeated with a 23-0 record, including 16 KOs. Magsayo had difficulty figuring out lefthanded Mexican Rigoberto Hermosillo and escaped with a win by split decision in October 2020. Russell (31-1, 18 KOs) is a lot tougher than Hermosillo and if hes in shape, could make life difficult for Magsayo. Stamina will definitely be a factor. Magsayos size is another factor as hes 1 1/2 inches taller with a four-inch reach advantage.

A few days ago, Russell disclosed hes nursing an injury but wouldnt reveal what it was and said hell fight Magsayo just the same. If its true, why would Russell or any fighter for that matter reveal an injury before a bout? MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons said “its a lot of baloneyand speculated that Russell “is playing mind games.” If Russell meant to distract Magsayo by claiming an injury, Gibbons said it wont work. “Marks gonna do what hes gonna do,” said Gibbons. “Its like a basketball guy having the first step and a guy being able to close the distance. I think Mark has that first step and very deceiving footwork that could cause Russell problems. Mark just needs to not get frustrated, keep working and throwing lots of combinations. Maybe, you miss the first 1-2 but 3-4-5 are coming down the pipeline. Russell is the toughest guy in the division and a win by Mark will rank among the top three upsets in Philippine boxing history.”

Magsayo said hes learned from being knocked down by Chris Avalos and Julio Ceja. He got up to halt both opponents. “Basta nakikita ko pa ang aking kalaban, lalaban at lalaban ako hanggat kaya para sa bayan at pangarap ko,” he said. Magsayo got a boost of inspiration when Sen. Manny Pacquiao phoned to wish him good luck yesterday.

Referee will be Benjy Esteves, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent. Hes been a pro referee since 1992, working all over the world, including China, Italy, Poland, Japan, Panama, Argentina, Mexico, Dubai, Germany, Russia, Bermuda and Aruba. Esteves, 67, has officiated in fights involving John Riel Casimero, Erik Morales, Miguel Cotto, Gervonta Davis, Errol Spence and Saul Alvarez. He was in the ring when Guillermo Rigondeaux outpointed Nonito Donaire in 2013 and Chocolatito Gonzalez halted Brian Viloria in 2015. The judges will be Lynne Carter, Henry Eugene and Mark Consentino.

MARK MAGSAYO

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