Magsayo’s secret sparmates

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Its usual practice to reveal who a fighters sparmates are in preparing for a big bout when asked by media. But in Mark Magsayos case, it was hush-hush. His sparring sessions were behind closed doors, in coach Freddie Roachs separate private facility at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. Not that Roach was threatened by news leaks reaching then-WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. His intention was to avoid distractions and opening the door for media to find out from sparmates how Magsayo was doing, his strengths, weaknesses and strategies.

So whenever Magsayo was asked about the progress of his sparring, he never said more than it was OK. But right after Magsayo dethroned Russell in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Saturday night, he finally let the cat or cats out of the bag. He expressed thanks to his sparmates for helping him get ready for the chance of his lifetime. Not surprisingly, they were all southpaws.

First was IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas whos training for his 10th title defense against unbeaten Argentinian Fernando Martinez on Feb. 26, possibly in Las Vegas. Next was Toka Khan Clary of Providence, Rhode Island, via his home country Liberia. Hes a superfeatherweight with a 28-3 record, including 19 KOs, known as T Nice. Then there was Steve Johnson, a celebrated 19-year-old amateur from San Francisco training with Eddie Croft. Johnson has trained with WBC International supermiddleweight champion Evgeny Shvedenko in Latvia. Finally, Magsayo also sparred with Jalan Walker, a Los Angeles featherweight with a 10-0-1 record, including 9 KOs.

Ancajas watched Magsayos fight on TV in his LA apartment with manager/trainer Joven Jimenez. “Tuwang-tuwa si Jerwin at galing daw ni Mark at masipag sa laban,” said Jimenez. “Sa tingin ko, eight rounds ang nakuha ni Mark. Panalong panalo at dapat malayo ang score. Para lang siguro hindi sasama ang loob ni Russell. Sobra yung 114-114 score ng isang judge (Lynne Carter). Safety lang siya pero malayo talaga ang score. Hindi naka-damage ‘yung mga suntok ni Russell.”

Magsayo said he was turned on to boxing in 2003 after watching Manny Pacquiao stop Marco Antonio Barrera in their San Antonio match. He was only eight years old. The next year, Magsayo tried his luck as an amateur kid but lost three fights in a row, prompting his father Joseph to advice him to quit and find another sport. Magsayo wanted to prove his father wrong and finally, convinced him Saturday night.

Magsayo said he never compromised his training since arriving in the US in July 2020. For Russell, he trained thrice a day from Monday to Saturday. On sparring days, he would start by sparring, then run up and down the hills at Griffith Park followed by swimming laps. On non-sparring days, he would run at Griffith Park, train in the gym and end up swimming. His food intake was monitored closely by nutritionist Jeaneth Aro through his wife Frances. Aro, whos based in Manila, provided the recipes that Frances would cook and landed in Los Angeles 10 days before the fight to supervise the scales management up to the weigh-in. Right after tipping in at 125 1/2 pounds, Magsayo celebrated by feasting on bulalo, pork chops and chicken pork adobo with rice for a late lunch. At dinner the night before the fight, he had tinola, fried chicken and soup. After the contest, the whole Magsayo team went on a burger binge.


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