Mark Magsayo explains to FanSided why he feels he can take the WBC featherweight title away from Gary Russell Jr. on Jan. 22.
Mark Magsayo might not be the most recognizable name in boxing, but he’s doing his best to change that. He took a big step in August 2021 after leveling Julio Ceja in a Knockout of the Year candidate. He would like to do the same to Gary Russell Jr. when they fight on Saturday, Jan. 22, but that’s a harder task.
In his last bout against Ceja, Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) did face some adversity. He was hurt and took a knee in round 5 after absorbing a punishing body shot from Ceja. Magsayo’s sparring experience and mindset are what allowed him to persevere and continue fighting to victory.
“He hurt me in a body shot and in the fifth round,” Magsayo told FanSided. “And I feel like I remember this hurt in sparring. It’s only in the mind if you surrender just you just give up. So this is this is the time that I’m going to prove myself that I’m one of the elite fighters in this division. So I get up and fight.”
And fight Magsayo did. His straight right hand caught Ceja in the 10th round, which rendered him unconscious. Magsayo proved he possesses abundant power, but he also showed some defensive liabilities. When you fight with a come-forward style like him, that comes with the territory. He sees a lot of Vinny Pazienza in his boxing.
“My style is like ‘Pazmanian Devil,'” said Magsayo. “Just like that my fights like that before. Now, it’s just a little adjust to upgrade my punching.”
Former world champion Pazienza was a ferocious combatant in the ring, making him one of the most entertaining boxers to watch. He made the action happen in his fights. Magsayo does the same thing, but under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, he’s learning how to harness his aggression.
Mark Magsayo looks to continue his upward featherweight climb against Gary Russell Jr. when they meet at the Borgata in Atlantic City
“Yeah, a lot of things changed about me when I start training because Freddie is before I’m a wild fighter,” explained Magsayo. “I punch wild left and right, and now he correct my boxing style. All I know is come forward and brawl fight. And now, he did teach me how to have patience, relax, and when I get hit, don’t get mad. Just relax, and then you can follow through.”
The 26-year-old Magsayo has been boxing since he was eight years old in the Philippines. He idolized countryman and legend Manny Pacquiao growing up, but as an adult in the professional boxing ranks, he grabbed Pacquiao’s attention.
Pacquiao signed Magsayo to MP Promotions and connected Magsayo with Roach. They’ve been a team since July 2020, and the combination is a success thus far.
On Jan. 22 on Showtime, Magsayo fights for his first world title against WBC champion Russell.
Russell (31-1, 18 KOs) hasn’t fought in nearly two years and is known for his inactivity. Still, he’s a dangerous opponent with a fantastic combination of power and speed. With Roach in Magsayo’s ear, Magsayo feels like he now has the boxing I.Q. to out-match Russell.
“I train with Coach Freddie for this training camp that if I fight Gary Russell, not just only power,” said Magsayo. “We can use that in and now, how to box, how to mimic his style like fast hands. So it’s not my only power. I’m not depending on my power.”
Magsayo lacks Russell’s experience and résumé, but he has several natural advantages. He’s seven years younger than Russell, and at 5-foot-6, also has the height and reach advantage. Russell is fast, but Magsayo’s power might be too much for him to handle.
Russell also told The DAZN Boxing Show (h/t Boxingscene.com) that he’s currently nursing a “slight injury.” He also stated that he’s mostly training himself since his father and trainer is suffering severe medical issues.
Combined with his inactivity, Russell’s personal issues could heavily impact his performance against Magsayo. Magsayo feels like Russell is in for a big surprise.
“He’s been inactive for almost two years,” said Magsayo. “Me, over these two years, I fight three times. So that’s my advantage to him. And I’m stronger than him and taller than him. So I’m younger than him. I have a lot of advantage.”
Watch Gary Russell Jr. vs. Mark Magsayo on Saturday, Jan. 22, at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.