Mark Magsayo sees Russell fight as prize at the end of long road
Known to brandish a big right hand and an even bigger fighting heart, Mark Magsayo has now snagged the biggest fight of his career: A world title fight against flashy American champ Gary Russell Jr., on Jan. 22 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The Tagbilaran City native, who a few months ago was just another face inside Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym, is making his world title debut under boxing’s mega brands Premier Boxing Champion and Showtime.
And he gets his shot against Russell, who has held the World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight title for six years and defended it successfully against five other challengers.
“I’ve had a long road to get to this position and I will be fighting in honor of everyone who helped me get there,” said the unbeaten Magsayo (23-0 with 16 knockouts) in a statement that accompanied the fight announcement.
The last step he had taken toward his goal was a big one, when he escaped with a 10th-round knockout against feisty Mexican Julio Ceja in a Manny Pacquiao-Yordenis Ugas undercard last August in Las Vegas.
There the 26-year-old Filipino was trailing on points as Ceja bounced back from a flush first round knockdown. Slowed down by the Mexican’s body punches, Magsayo plodded along until he found a gap between Ceja’s defense and slipped a smashing right that knocked the Mexican out of his senses for more than one minute.
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity to fight on Showtime for the WBC world title,” said Magsayo, who is now based in the United States, training under Roach and Pacquiao’s MP Promotions. “This is the fight that I want and have been working hard to get for years.”
“I am going to come to win and to make the most of this chance. There is a reason Gary is a champion just like there’s a reason I became the mandatory challenger,” he added.
Russell is a far better boxer than Ceja, though. Coming from a family of renowned prizefighters, the 33-year-old (31-1 with 18 KOs) has hand speed, smarts, power and even showmanship under his tool shed.
Russell’s only loss came in 2014 at the hands of Vasily Lomachenko, who negated all his attributes with overwhelming force and relentless attacks.
“I’m ready and I’ve been waiting to display my talents and get back in the ring,” said Russell, whose last outing was a February 2020 decision win over Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar.
“My opponent is one of Manny Pacquiao’s fighters, who is a legend in the sport and I’m pretty sure has a good eye for talent,” added Russell. “I’m sure he signed Magsayo for a reason. I know that I’m facing a guy who’s willing to put it all on the line, with everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
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