Magsayo vows to bounce back

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — A dark chapter in the history of Philippine boxing has sadly opened as for the first time in a long time, no Filipino reigns as world champion today. The last to fall was Mark Magsayo who yielded the WBC featherweight crown to Mexican Rey Vargas on a split 12-round decision at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, yesterday morning (Manila time).

While Magsayo took the defeat without protest, MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons fumed at the way two of the three judges scored it for Vargas. Judges Tim Cheatham and David Sutherland had it 115-112, both for the Mexican challenger while judge Jesse Reyes saw it 114-113 for Magsayo. “I’ve seen close decisions before but this stinks,” said Gibbons who watched from ringside. “Vargas was on his backfoot running, not winning rounds. It’s the politics I don’t like, the part of boxing that’s not right. This happened to even Sen. Manny (Pacquiao). But we’ll deal with it. I just don’t think you win the belt running away.”

Magsayo said he’ll come back stronger and conceded that Vargas was “the man” in the fight. But like Gibbons, Magsayo criticized Vargas’ style. “Too much running,” he said. “But he did his job running. I’m disappointed. I did my best. I’m sorry for the fans in the Philippines.” There is no rematch clause in the fight contract as Vargas was the No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger. Magsayo said he’ll take a short rest and return to the gym to work on improving his craft. “I won’t commit the same mistakes in my next fight,” he said.

Gibbons said Magsayo did enough to win the decision particularly as he scored the only knockdown in the ninth. Vargas went down from a counter right hook to the jaw and was visibly shaken. He was wobbly and fell once more before the round ended but referee Jon Schorle ruled it a slip. With his legs still rubbery, Vargas stumbled twice in the 10th as he struggled to maintain his balance. To Vargas’ credit, he launched an all-out assault in the 11th and Magsayo had to be impressed with his resiliency. In the final frame, Vargas coasted and Magsayo was in hot pursuit to land a clincher but ran out of time.

Magsayo got off to a strong start, rocking Vargas with a pair of overhand rights to the head in the first round. He had the cleaner shots as Vargas failed to land a single jab. In the second, Vargas made a key adjustment, began sticking the jab to establish distance and kept away from Magsayo. The Mexican controlled the tempo from long range as Magsayo charged in but couldn’t find a standing target. In the fifth, Vargas got careless and was staggered by a right but in the next round, went on a scorching body attack that disrupted Magsayo’s rhythm. A clash of heads ripped a cut in the corner of Vargas’ left eye. Magsayo stepped it up in the eighth as blood trickled from Vargas’ gash and landed a vicious right to the jaw, buckling the Mexican’s knees. No doubt, it was a close contest between two undefeated fighters. The knockdown should’ve spelled the difference in the scorecards but two judges dismissed it.

This year has been rough for Filipino champions as Jerwin Ancajas was dethroned as IBF superflyweight titlist in February, JohnRiel Casimero was stripped of his WBO bantamweight belt in May, Nonito Donaire Jr. lost his WBC bantamweight crown last month and Rene Mark Cuarto surrendered his IBF minimumweight strap two weeks ago.

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