Boxing: Magsayo not dwelling on ‘next Pacquiao’ tag

Mark Magsayo delivers a knockout punch to Julio Ceja during their featherweight title eliminator at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday (Manila time). Patrick T. Fallon, AFP
Mark Magsayo delivers a knockout punch to Julio Ceja during their featherweight title eliminator at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday (Manila time). Patrick T. Fallon, AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Mark Magsayo is well aware that expectations of him have risen, thanks to his impressive victory over former world champion Julio Ceja of Mexico last week.

The boxer from Tagbilaran City turned heads when he recovered from a fifth-round knockdown to overpower Ceja in the 10th round, landing a pair of vicious right hands that put the Mexican to sleep. The stoppage win kept Magsayo unbeaten (23-0, 16 KOs), and put him in line for a shot at the WBC featherweight title.

It also earned him plenty of comparisons to his promoter, Filipino boxing legend and senator Manny Pacquiao. Even ahead of the fight, celebrated trainer Freddie Roach — who is also working with Magsayo — said that the young Filipino is comparable to the “Pacman.”

“He hits just as hard as Manny did at 126 (pounds),” said Roach. “He might even be a little better puncher than Manny. He has power in both hands. He’s dangerous at all times. He can knock guys out.”

Yet, as flattered as he is to be compared to the “Pacman,” Magsayo said his focus is on his own journey as a boxer.

“Natuwa ako kasi nai-hambing ako kay Senator Manny Pacquiao,” Magsayo told former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on “Power and Play” over the weekend.

“Pero sa akin, focused lang ako sa mga darating kong laban, sa mga darating kong training, sparring sa gym,” he added. 

“Kaya kung ano man ang maibigay sa akin ng Panginoon, tatanggapin ko po para sa akin at para sa Pilipinas.”

Of course, Magsayo has a long way to go to match the achievements of Pacquiao, who was 19 years old when he won the WBC flyweight title and just 22 when he stunned Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in a star-making performance that earned him the IBF super bantamweight belt in June 2001.

Magsayo’s own trainer, Marvin Somodio, stressed that his ward will have to work even harder if he hopes to live up to the lofty expectations that boxing fans and observers now have for him.

“May potential, pero boxing ito eh,” Somodio said, when asked if Magsayo can be the next Filipino boxing star on the international stage.

“Hindi tayo pwedeng magsabi na siya na kaagad. Pagta-trabahuhan natin at performance ang ipapakita. Hayaan natin na ang mga tao ang magsabi. Kailangan hindi tayo mawala sa focus,” he said. “Huwag tayong maging high masyado para ang work ethic hindi magbabago.”

Magsayo intends to return to action later this year or early in 2022, possibly in a world title fight.

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