Mark Magsayo experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows in consecutive fights last year.
The 27-year-old Filipino outpointed Gary Russell Jr. to take Russell’s WBC 126-pound title in January, his first major belt. Then he lost his title to Rey Vargas by a split decision in his first defense in July. Such is the roller coaster that his boxing.
Magsayo insists the past is in the past, though. He’s looking forward, specifically at his fight against Brandon Figueroa for the WBC’s “interim” belt Saturday at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California (Showtime).
“I won a big fight, I lost a big fight,” he told Boxing Junkie. “Now I have a big opportunity again. It’s an honor to fight for a world championship again against Figueroa. This is a great fight.”
What happened against Vargas? Magsayo got off to a slow start but rallied to make it close, including a ninth-round knockdown of Vargas. However, it wasn’t enough to win over two of the judges, both of whom had it 115-112 (eight rounds to four) for Vargas. The third scored it 114-113 for the loser.
Magsayo still believes he deserved to get the nod in that fight but he acknowledged that his reputation took a hit, which gives him added motivation.
“I’m hungrier now,” he said. “I’m coming off a loss. I need to come back stronger to prove to them that I’m an elite fighter, that I’m still a champ. I will get that belt again.”
He won’t do it with Freddie Roach in his corner. He and the Hall of Fame trainer have split after working together for five fights.
His new head trainer is countryman Marvin Somodio, who had been working with Magsayo as Roach’s assistant. One reason for the change: Fighter and trainer share the same first language, Bisaya.
“I’m really thankful for what Freddie Roach has done for me,” Magsayo said. “… I made the move because Marvin and I understand each other during the hard moments of the fight. We speak the same language.
“And he’s good at studying my opponents. I’m lucky that he has been able to do that every time I’ve fought.”
Boxing Junkie doesn’t recognize “interim” as a world title but Magsayo (24-1, 16 KOs) could be fighting for a genuine one again soon if he can get past Figueroa (23-1-1, 18 KOs).
The winner will be first in line to challenge Vargas for the championship. That concept sits well with the revenge-minded Magsayo, although it’s not clear whether Vargas will stay at 126 or give up his title and move up in weight.
Of course, taking down Figueroa will be no easy task. The Texan is an unusually durable brawler who applies relentless pressure on his opponents, which generally wears them down. How do you counter that kind of attack? “The jab and body shots,” Magsayo said.
That’s only part of it, though. He believes he’ll win because he’s prepared.
“I’ve been in the gym since October,” he said. “I believe I’m going to win the fight because I’m working hard.”