Magsayo Makes His First Defense

Tomorrow (Sunday, July 10 in the Philippines) marks another crucial day for that dazzling Boholano boxing sensation, Mark ‘Magnifico’ Magsayo. He enters the ring once again to make his debut defense for the WBC featherweight crown. The undefeated Magsayo (24 Ws – 0 L, 16 KOs) grabbed an upset win over the heavily-favored and long-time titleholder Gary Russell Jr last January. (Please read: Is Mark ‘Magnifico’ Magsayo the Next Manny Pacquiao?) Magnifico must now make his mandatory defense against another strong undefeated boxer, Mexican Rey Vargas (35 Ws – 0 L, 22 KOs).

Vargas is a dangerous former WBC super bantamweight champion who had a recent 2-year lay-off due to injuries and some issues with his promotions team. Vargas is taller (5’7” to 5’10” depending on which fight card reference you’re looking at), and has a 2 to 4 inch reach advantage. He’s more experienced (35 total bouts vs Mark’s 24), and has more KO wins (22 vs Mark’s 16). Vargas is 32 years old, 5 years older than Mark. The tale of the tape has the challenger Vargas slightly ahead with advantages in height, reach, total fights, total wins and total KOs. Despite being the challenger, Vargas is the betting odds’ favorite in this fight, with more boxing aficionados looking at Vargas’ technical skills, his experience and his ability to make maximum use of his reach advantage.

The Magsayo – Vargas match-up opens up another chapter in the storied Philippines vs Mexico boxing rivalry. Successful Philippine fighters, the most recent of whom were the iconic Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, have had to go through a gauntlet of Mexican greats in order to be glorified among boxing’s best. This fight also brings back another strong rivalry: that of trainers Freddie Roach and Nacho Beristain. Coaches Freddie and Nacho have a long history of superb fighters pitted against one another, the most famous of which was the 4-fight saga between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Who is the better trainer? Will this bout provide a clear answer?

There is no other way for Mark to win this fight. Magsayo will have to figure a way to get within shooting range without getting peppered by Vargas’ stinging jabs and crosses. He will need to move forward, using a lot of head movement. He will also need to hone his counterpunching skills. Coach Freddie Roach will have to prepare a fight plan that will revolve around bringing Mark closer to the longer-limbed Vargas. Magsayo will need the brawling style of Mike Tyson or Joe Frazier in this fight, while making sure to stay away from Vargas’ looping liver shots once inside. He must take advantage of those milliseconds when Vargas opens up to launch his shots. Mark will win this if he brings the fight to Vargas. A long-distance fight on the other hand will favor Vargas more. Thus, whoever is able to dictate his tempo on the other will win this bout.

But having reached the pinnacle of success as world champion, and under the tutelage of that venerable champion-maker Freddie Roach, I expect Mark to be a wiser, better-prepared fighter when he tangles with the older Vargas tomorow. Mark is not just a talented fighter, he is also driven and totally-focused on the job at hand. Mark may have his hands full once again, but he is no stranger to adversity, having entered the ring a heavy underdog in his previous encounter with Russell. Everyone thought that he was way below Russell’s talent level, but he proved them wrong. Mark has a strong chin, he has superb skills. His stamina, his defense has improved a lot. Now, what he will need to summon is his strong fighting heart. (For more on Magsayo, pls read: Is Magsayo Ready for a Title Fight?)

For a clearer view, just click on the pics. Cover photo courtesy of YouTube. Other pics courtesy of Premiere Boxing Champions, NY Fights, YouTube, the Daily Tribune, RingTV.com, 3KingsBoxing.

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