At the age of just 20, Mark Magsayo is bidding to replace Manny Pacquiao as the darling of Filipino boxing.
In terms of a nation embracing a fighter – or, for that matter, a sportsman – being billed an heir to Pacquiao presents the very biggest of metaphorical thrones to sit on. So adored is ‘Pac Man’ that he’s moved smoothly (or not so smoothly) into politics over the twilight of his boxing career.
He may have lost the ‘Fight of the Century’ against Floyd Mayweather, but Pacquiao officially retired in the wake of April’s points victory over Timothy Bradley as the sport’s only eight-division world champion having won 58 of his 66 professional contests.
Of course, the Philippines already has other fighters on the world scene such as four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire (37-3-KO24) – but while the exploits of ‘The Filipino Flash’ will no doubt shine brighter now, a significant proportion of hopes will be transferred to Magsayo.
On April 23, Donaire and Magsayo (14-0-KO11) fought on the same bill in their home country. Donaire was defending his WBO world super-bantamweight title against Zsolt Bedak, while Magsayo took on former Carl Frampton victim, Chris Avalos, with a jump up the WBO featherweight rankings at stake.
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Both excelled in what could be seen as auditions. Needless to say, Donaire and Magsayo are in different weight divisions and are not mutually exclusive in terms of support, and both ended thrilling contests with stoppage victories.
Donaire has mixed it with the very best, of course. Aside from a points defeat in his second professional bout, the 33-year-old has only lost at the very top; outmanoeuvred on points by the slick Guillermo Rigondeaux in April 2013 and then blasted out in six rounds by Nicholas Walters in October 2014.
The defeat against Walters simply represented a step too far for Donaire, who was fighting a featherweight who has since stepped up to super-featherweight. Two quick-fire stoppage victories later, he was back at 122lbs to claim a world super-bantamweight crown by outpointing Cesar Juarez.
If Donaire cares to become the national boxing hero (and there’s no suggestion it’s something keeping him up at night), he faces a problem in that so much of his greatness has been overlooked while Pacquiao ran amok; overlooked not just by his countrymen but by the world in general. Conversely, Magsayo is just starting as Pacquiao is finishing.
Although officially there’s less than an inch in height between them, Magsayo seems naturally rangier than Pacquiao was. Pacquiao won his first world title at flyweight, while Magsayo has weighed in for all his professional contests to date as a featherweight. He’s likely to move up soon enough as he continues to grow ‘into his body’.
The youngster served up drama aplenty against Avalos. The Cebu crowd were enjoying their man’s aggression but were suddenly aghast in the third round, when Avalos (26-5-KO19) felled the home fighter with a left hook. Magsayo made the sign of the cross and rose to his feet to grimly survive the remaining minute and a half of the session.
Full name: Jessel Mark Araula Magsayo Birthdate: June 22, 1995 Birthplace: Tacloban City, Philippines Residence: Tagbilaran City, Philippines Height: 5’6″ Stance: Orthodox
Having consolidated in the fourth, Magsayo found a sweet counter-left of his own to wobble Avalos late in the fifth. The ruthless manner in which he capitalised – throwing left hooks and right hooks with fluency – evoked memories of Pacquiao on the charge. At the bell that briefly postponed his defeat, Avalos was leaning stunned on the ropes, the crowd going wild.
With fans baying for an emphatic finish, it took him a minute of the sixth to truly find the American again but when he did, a brutal four-punch combination was interrupted by a towel sailing in from the visiting corner.
It wasn’t polished and it was fraught with danger and adversity, but Magsayo had once again exhibited a style in victory that is bound to attract attention, sponsors and support… just as he did on his US debut in October 2015, when he stopped Yardley Suarez inside the opening round.
Pacquiao’s career benefited from broadening exposure when he stole the undercard on Lennox Lewis v Mike Tyson with a second-round stoppage of Jorge Eliecer Julio. He was 23 at the time. Whether he is a worthy heir or not, Magsayo’s introduction to the big stage may come even sooner.