The glory days of Manny Pacquiao were long gone and the pandemonium that was a scene of wild celebration of fans on the alleys of Manila or gymnasiums in GenSan surely epitomized the Filipinos’ love for boxing. But on the heels of Pacman’s retirement last year came the question: Who will carry the torch for the Philippines? In a sea of potential talents, Mark Magsayo stood the best last Sunday.
The Boholano scored a majority decision win against American Gary Russell Jr. to take the World Boxing Council featherweight Belt at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in New Jersey over the weekend. His stroke of genius was reminiscent of Pacquiao’s indomitable ring presence; the uppercuts were crisp, the jabs were on point, and the body shots made Russell’s night a bad one.
Magsayo’s opponent was the longest active male champion in boxing at six years and 10 months, not until the Filipino right-hander gave him a ton of headache with relentless aggression right from the opening bell. In the end, two judges scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Magsayo, while the third official saw it 114-114.
The 26-year-old boxer from Tagbilaran remained spotless in 24 fights on top of 16 knockouts under his name. He joined the A-list of current champions in Jerwin Ancajas (IBF super flyweight), Rene Cuarto (IBF minimumweight), John Riel Casimero (WBO bantamweight), and Nonito Donaire (WBC bantamweight).
For sure, Magsayo’s record is far from the credentials that made Pacquiao the only eight-division world champion and the hero of masses. There is only one Pacman, who fought valiantly against boxing’s best, climbed and owned the weight divisions since he was a skinny and raw 16-year-old boy that merely tipped the scales at 98 pounds.
Pacquiao’s story is a template of success for everyone, much like the dream to greatness of Magsayo who grew up idolizing the boxer-turned-politician. He once shared that it was Pacquiao’s fight against Mexican rival Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003 that pushed him to try boxing. He sold ice cream in the streets, sometimes donuts and bread to help feed his family. When his mother passed away in 2011, Magsayo doubled his desire to pursue boxing and make it a living.
After a thorny relationship with his former promotional outfit, Magsayo carved his way until he was signed by MP Promotions. There, he met the legendary Freddie Roach, who guided Pacquiao throughout his decorated career.
All the sacrifices and years of hard work paid off last Sunday when he faced the veteran Russell. It was 12 rounds of pain, worth every ounce of sweat, blood and tears. In the end, it was Magsayo that reigned, the new champion in town. Magsayo is clearly “Magnifico.”
Filipinos would always look up to rags to riches narratives and Magsayo is a fitting choice for the next sporting idol. Sure, Pacquiao gifted us the boxing belts, but more than the glitz of the crowns, it was his story of success that struck us hard.
From years onward, that story could be Magsayo’s own recipe to create his piece of history.