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Magsayo’s sacrifices finally pay off



When Mark Magsayo left the Philippines during the height of the pandemic in the middle of 2020, he swore to himself that he won’t book a return flight until he becomes a world champion.

“That’s what I told myself when I decided to pack my bags and go here (in the United States),” Magsayo told Daily Tribune after dethroning Gary Russell as World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight champion over the weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“No world title, no trip back home,” Magsayo said after winning a hard-earned 12-round majority decision at The Borgata.

Pretty soon, Magsayo will pack his things and get that much-needed break as his next fight won’t be taking place until May or June.

But fulfilling his dream didn’t come easy for the Bohol-born Magsayo, who saw his record improve to 24-0 with 16 knockouts.

As Covid was wreaking havoc in the United States, Magsayo could only fight once in 2020, with the stone-fisted Filipino barely escaping past Rigoberto Hermosillo of Mexico in Los Angeles in October.

It took another six months before Magsayo could get a fight and in April 2021, he stopped another Mexican-American, Pablo Cruz, in four rounds at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

Then came the game-changing clash with Julio Ceja, the rugged Mexican, in the undercard of the headlining Manny Pacquiao against Yordenis Ugas welterweight war at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in August.

Behind on the scorecards, Magsayo knocked Ceja out with two vicious right hands to the jaw to secure a mandatory shot at Russell’s coveted crown.

But taking it away from Russell also was nerve-wracking.

“I was anxious while waiting for the decision because the fight could be awarded to Russell,” the 26-year-old Magsayo said. “You’ll never know.”

Still, Magsayo believed that he had done enough to merit the verdict, believing that he rocked the 33-year-old Russell a few times.

It was about in the tenth round that Magsayo felt that he had the fight in the bag although as early as the fourth frame, he sensed that he was going to pull it off.

Now that he has achieved his dream, things are looking up for Magsayo, whose win made him only the third world featherweight champion from the Philippines after Luisito Espinosa, Nonito Donaire and Pacquiao.

Sean Gibbons, whose MP Promotions represents Magsayo, is thrilled over the seemingly endless possibilities in the powerhouse 126-lb class that is also inhabited by Mexican Emanuel Navarrete, the reigning World Boxing Organization titlist.

But that’s a concern that ranks low on Magsayo’s to-do list as of now.

Right now, all he thinks of is heading home to celebrate his feat.

“I am rewarding myself after all the sacrifices I had to go through,” he said.

Give Magsayo a break. He deserves it.