Mark Magsayo: Future of Philippine boxing?
MANILA, Philippines - There were no jitters, no hiccups, no hint that the four-cornered ring at the StubHub Center in SoCal would hold a different fate than the one he’s accustomed to in Cebu City.
Filipino boxer Mark Magsayo had to work no harder in the ring than he had during warmups in his American debut on Saturday night, October 17. The 20-year-old Magsayo was not intimidated by the 13-0 record of his Mexican opponent, charging forward from the outset to see what Suarez was made of.
At the first sense of vulnerability, Magsayo jumped on his opponent, raining blows up and around the guard with a manic fury. Two minutes and two knockdowns later, Magsayo had his sixth straight knockout win.
Magsayo’s first round knockout win was one of the highlights of Cebu-based promoter ALA Promotions’ first American venture. It marked just how far the Tacloban City-born, Bohol-raised Magsayo (12-0, 10 knockouts) had come since his father first taught him how to box at age 8.
The son of a bakery owner in Dauis, Bohol, Magsayo originally had dreams of being a basketball player, but his height – he topped out at 5-foot-6 – as more appropriate for a featherweight boxer than a shooting guard.
Promoter Michael Aldeguer can still recall the day his father Antonio Aldeguer introduced him to a 9-year-old Magsayo in Bohol during a promotion of a Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista fight and told the young boy to exhibit his boxing skills for a small group of onlookers.
“I’ve been with Gerry Peñalosa, Rodel Mayol and Z Gorres. In my 35 years in boxing, I’ve never seen talent like that at 9 years old,” said Aldeguer of Magsayo.
As an amateur Magsayo says he had 200 fights, winning 11 gold medals – including 4 from national tournaments – and was named best boxer of the tournament twice.
But it was a tragedy – the passing of his mother in January 2010 – that made him step up the intensity of his ambitions.
“My motivation for fighting is my family and my fiancee (Princess),” said Magsayo, who has two brothers and a sister.
Magsayo turned pro in May 2013 with a first round knockout at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu and has mowed down all but two of his opponents.
He wears his ambitions on his sleeve in a literal sense, having received a tattoo of a WBO belt on his left arm shortly after graduating high school. The tattoo includes his nickname – "Magnifico" – and his birthday (06-22-95). He couldn’t have known then that the first regional title belt he’d receive would come from the IBF.
Trainer Edito Villamor says what he appreciates about Magsayo is his eagerness to score knockouts, a trait known in boxing as “killer instinct.”
“When Mark can see that the opponent is hurt he wants to finish the opponent,” said Villamor, himself a two-time world title challenger during the 90s. “And that’s what makes him sensational.”
Flashiness and explosive power are just part of the recipe that make a potential boxing champion. Another, more important ingredient is heart, or the willingness to accept the risks inherent to boxing and fight through it in pursuit of victory.
The public saw a bit of that in the fight prior when he faced durable Mexican Rafael Reyes in Cebu City this past July. Magsayo took several big right hands that drove him back, only to come back and finish him in round 5 with a flurry of punches capped off by an abrupt left uppercut that snapped Reyes' head back and knocked him to the floor.
It was the kind of win that revealed character, and the need to plug holes in his defense. Magsayo has a tendency to wing his shots in flurries. He may soon have to show he can handle fighters who don't come right at him, using their guile and technique to counter Magsayo's aggression.
With the leading Filipino champions of the last decade – Manny Pacquiao, Brian Viloria, Nonito Donaire and stablemate Donnie Nietes – all past 30, Filipino boxing fans are already beginning to look to the future.
It's a future that Mark Magsayo may play a big part in.
“That’s my dream to be like them,” said Magsayo. – Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.