The country’s first shot at a world championship this year lies in the rock-solid hands of Mark Magsayo. And he isn’t leaving anything to chance, not even his weight.
The well-prepared Filipino said he will make the most of the opportunity he has dreamed of since he was a kid and leaving nothing to chance as his fight date with World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. draws near.
“Since I was a kid I was aiming for a World title fight, now this opportunity comes to me that’s why I was so excited when I won the mandatory for Gary Russell,” said Magsayo, who booked his corner of the ring opposite Russell after a sensational 10th-round knockout of Julio Ceja in August last year, a fight where he was trailing in all scorecards before the dramatic stoppage.
Magsayo has whipped himself to competitive shape and should coast during the weigh-in on Saturday (Manila time).
“He’s doing great,” Magsayo’s nutritionist Jeaneth Aro, who plotted the diet regimen of Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and the Olympic boxing team that won two silvers and a bronze in last year’s Tokyo Games, told the Inquirer on Friday.
“We’re on track [to make the weight],” she added.
Magsayo certainly looked sharp as he joined Russell in a prefight press conference on Friday (Manila time) at Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City. And he was brimming with confidence, too.
“I can fight, I can adjust in the middle of the fight,” Magsayo said. “He has speed, I have speed, so let’s see on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), let’s brawl.”
Russell, on the other hand, said he expects the Filipino to “bring his physical best.”
“I know he wants it, it’s a pleasure to share the field of battle with him, that’s all. We coming,” said Russell.
Russell (31-1), who’s held the belt since March 2015, only defended the title five times, with his last one a unanimous decision win over Tugstsogt Nyambayar in February 2020. The long layoff has surfaced doubts on how ready the American will be on fight night—doubts Russell readily dismissed.
“There are no concerns about ring rust. I’m always in the gym. I haven’t taken two months off from training since I was about four or five. Boxing is not just what I do, it’s a lifestyle for me,” said Russell, who also hit at criticisms that he has yet to defend against top fighters.
“Stop acting like a sucker and get in the ring, point blank point period. We’re gladiators, we’re fighters, conduct yourself as such and be a fighter. Don’t pick and choose who you fight against, let’s fight. I take my hat off to Mark because he’s one of these guys who are willing to step into the ring, and willing to actually compete and put it all on the line.”
Magsayo, who holds a perfect 23-0 record, believes he’ll be the first fighter to end Russell’s nearly seven-year reign as the WBC champion.
“I know there’s no ring rust for him, which is good,” said Magsayo. “Maybe I’m the one to beat him, give him his second loss.”
“There’s a lot of people saying that I don’t have the skills like him but Filipinos are Filipinos, we’re born strong, we’re warriors.”
Russell, who’s only loss was at the hands of Vasyl Lomachenko, said he’s a fan of how Magsayo represents his country while trying to prove his worth.
“Just like Mark said he said he’s gonna show me what the Filipinos bring and … that’s very honorable for you to support not just yourself but your people as a whole; that’s what you’re supposed to do,” said Russell.
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