After easily making weight, Magsayo takes a shot at world title
Safely tucked under the weight limit with half a pound to spare, Mark Magsayo watched as Gary Russell Jr. flunked his initial try at the scales on Saturday (Manila time).
“He’ll get the weight,” Magsayo said.
The reigning World Boxing Council featherweight champion did so and the fight is on for Sunday, when Magsayo will try to snatch the crown from the American at Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Just as his team confidently said he would, Magsayo made the weight at 125.5 pounds. Russell tipped the scales half a pound over the 126-lb featherweight limit but finally made it after being given an hour to shed off the excess weight.
“He was too comfortable for himself,” Magsayo (23-0) said. “He thought he already got the weight.”
Nutritionist of champs
Magsayo’s focus on weight is understandable. His game plan on fight night is partly anchored on it.
“The team doesn’t want to reveal what weight he’ll be [on fight night] but it’s a weight that he’s most comfortable with and [makes him feel] confident to last the whole 12 rounds if needed,” Jeaneth Aro, the noted nutritionist of champions, told the Inquirer via a message.
Magsayo has credited Aro, who is in New Jersey as part of the boxer’s team, for helping him make the featherweight limit easily.
Aro, who also curated the menus of Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and the two-silver, one-bronze boxing team in the Tokyo Games, crafts diet plans around the philosophy that athletes do not need to go hungry to make weight.
After the weigh-in, Magsayo had for his recovery meal rice, adobo and pork chop, and a rehydration drink concocted by Aro to build his way to his target weight.
And Magsayo needs to be perfectly confident with the pounds he’ll be carrying to the ring because he wants to be flexible enough pose a challenge for Russell (31-1) different from what the latter faced in his last title defense against Tugstsogt Nyambayar.
“I’m a better fighter than Tug. I’m better than him,” Magsayo told BoxingScene.com. “I think Gary Russell, for me, he’s not easy. It’s gonna be a challenge for me to fight with him. But I’m different than Tug. He is just a brawler fighter. Me, I know how to box. I can adjust in the middle of the fight.”
Magsayo, a knockout artist, earned the title shot after a dramatic stoppage of former title challenger Julio Ceja in the 10th round of their bout in August last year.
‘Thinks I’m slow’
And the Filipino swears he will be bringing in more weapons than just his heavy hitting.
“[Russell is] not expecting that I’m fast and have speed, too. I’m not all power. That’s what he thinks about me. I’ll prove to him that I’m not slow or weak,” said Magsayo. “I’m strong and fast, and that’s what I’m gonna prove when I face him. Gary Russell underestimates my ability. He thinks that I’m slow. It’s good to think that I’m slow, so that he can be surprised when I face him.”
Magsayo, in turn, said he is not underestimating his opponent.
“Gary Russell, he’s different from the other fighters that I fought. He’s a tactical fighter. He’s a skillful fighter. He’s different from Julio Ceja. Julio Ceja’s a brawler fighter. So, it’s a good to fight with Gary Russell because I want a challenge. I want to challenge an elite fighter.”
Russell won the belt in March 2015 when he stopped Jhonny Gonzalez in four rounds, but he has only defended the strap five times.
The 33-year-old last defended the strap against Nyambayar in February 2020, a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Magsayo, meanwhile, fought three times during Russell’s inactivity, with two wins coming via knockout.
“He fights once a year. He’s used to that. That’s his style. Me, I want to fight at least twice a year,” said Magsayo. “Maybe he needs to fight like that. For five or six years, he fought only four guys or five guys.”