Why Mark Magsayo could be heir to Pacquiao’s throne 2
“Mark is the biggest breakout star we’re waiting on,” said MP Productions head Sean Gibbons. Photo from Magsayo's Facebook page

A star is born: Who is Mark Magsayo and why he could be the heir to Pacquiao throne

“He hits just as hard as Manny did at 126. He might even be a little better puncher than Manny.”
RHIA GRANA | Aug 23 2021

The photograph of Boholano boxer Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo’s knockout punch on the tenth round of his match against Mexican fighter Julio Ceja is currently making the rounds of the internet. That and the image of him doing a celebratory backflip. 

What a way to introduce one’s self to boxing fans all over the world. By winning Sunday’s bout, Magsayo is now a top contender for the WBC Featherweight title currently held by American Gary Russel Jr. The 26-year-old Filipino fighter remains undefeated with a record of 23-0 and 16 KOs. Claiming victory the day the most accomplished Filipino boxer lost in his fight against Cuban Yordenis Ugas made for an even more interesting detail to the Magnifico narrative. “A star is born,” declared Las Vegas Review Journal.  

Mark Magsayo, Julio Ceja
Mark Magsayo fights against Julio Ceja of Mexico during the WBA Featherweight Title Eliminator boxing match at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 21, 2021. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon, AFP

Boy from Tagbilaran

Magsayo first encountered his chosen sport while selling ice cream during a boxing match in his hometown of Tagbilaran City. Antonio Aldeguer, founder of ALA, a boxing promotions company, bought all of Magsayo’s ice cream that day. So since he no longer had to go around peddling his frozen goodies, the boxer decided to stay at the venue and watch the fight. “Then I got a chance to shadow box in front of Mr. Aldeguer and started training the next day,” Magsayo recalled to boxing rag The Ring

But what would make a huge impact on the young Magsayo was watching Pacquiao’s 11-round fight with Mexican boxing legend Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003. The said fight would later be recognized in boxing history as one of greatest in the pugilist-turned-politician’s career.

Magsayo was born in 1995, the year Pacquiao made his professional debut in boxing. He initially honed his fighting skills in about 200 amateur fights. He emerged as the champion four times in different weight divisions at the annual Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) tournament, and also snagged the “Best Boxer” title twice. 

Mark Magsayo backflips
Magsayo (right) backflips as he celebrates after knocking out Ceja (left) of Mexico. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon, AFP

Meeting Pacman  

In 2013, Magsayo launched his professional boxing career in the featherweight division via Pinoy Pride XX. He had since been nicknamed “Magnificent” for his “great power and speed,” “patience beyond his years,” and “intelligent movement” according to an Asian boxing site. 

Magsayo got to meet his boxing hero when Pacman was already a Senator. The introduction happened at the Philippine Senate on December 5, 2017, following Magsayo’s 18th professional win. The lawmaker lauded the young fighter and even gifted him $5,000 out of his own pocket. 

However, a contract dispute with his previous promotions company put Magsayo’s career on hold. Signing up with another company further stalled his career.

Mark Magsayo with Freddie Roach
“Mark is a very good fighter and hard puncher. He hits just as hard as Manny did at 126," says Freddie Roach. Photo from ABS-CBN News

Striking it out on his own, Magsayo got into matches, which led to MP (Manny Pacquiao) Productions head Sean Gibbons “discovering” him in 2019. Magsayo got to meet his idol again March last year at Pacman’s Makati home where he signed a three-year contract with the latter’s company.

“He reminds me of myself,” Pacquiao told ESPN5. “How we both struggled to come from nothing to a world-rated contender. I love his work ethic and desire to become a world champion and I will do everything to help promote Mark and make his dreams a reality.”

Prior to their Vegas bouts, Pacman’s protegé had been training under the reins of legendary trainer Freddie Roach at Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles. “When you have Manny in your corner, it’s good for any fighter,” Roach told the sports website. “Mark is a very good fighter and hard puncher. He hits just as hard as Manny did at 126. 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.” 

Mark Magsayo with Manny Pacquiao and MP Promotions president Sean Gibbons
Magsayo with Manny Pacquiao and MP Promotions president Sean Gibbons. Photo by Wendell Alinea via ABS-CBN News

Gut check

Roach has seen progress in his ward’s combinations, punching power and footwork, and Magsayo himself had felt that the accuracy of his punches has improved. “My punching before was wild. Now I’m more accurate,” Magsayo told ESPN5. “Freddie is correcting my mistakes. It’s great to have a legendary coach in my corner.”

Boxing analyst Atty. Ed Tolentino also observed the notable improvements in Magsayo—particularly in surviving the powerful shots of his Mexican opponent. “It was a gut check, a test of fire,” said Tolentino. “And so far hindi siya nag-collapse.” Magsayo was able to recover and regain control of the later rounds Sunday, showcasing his punching power that eventually sent Ceja to sleep on the canvas.

Nutrition coach Jeaneth Aro, who’s been working with Magsayo since October of last year has also helped the athlete enhance his performance on the ring. Coach Jeaneth works closely with Magsayo’s wife, Frances, in implementing the boxer’s nutrition program.

The diet coach, who had worked with winning Olympians—weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and boxers Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio and Eumir Marcial—describes Magsayo as very strong, determined, and goal-oriented, all good qualities of an elite athlete.

Gibbons said “Mark is the biggest breakout star we’re waiting on” and the recent Las Vegas fight was a test if he will “break out, or flame out.” With his recent victory, and with Pacquiao, Roach and Gibbons on his side—Magsayo’s magnificence can surely shine in the years to come.