Pacquiao to Magsayo: Thank you for bringing honor to our country

Mark Magsayo couldn’t have gotten more credit after the most important win of his career to date.

That, of course, comes with having a promoter whose own time in the ring is recognized as one of the greatest fighters in boxing history.

Retired former eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao was one of the first to acknowledge the feat of Filipino Magsayo, who defeated long-reigning WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. dethroned by majority decision. Judge Lynne Carter (114-114) even scored the action, drowning out Judges Tom Constentino (115-113) and Henry Eugene Grant (115-113) in favor of the undefeated Filipina, who proudly fights under the banner of MP Promotions.

“Congratulations, Mark Magsayo on your first world championship,” Pacquiao tweeted just after Saturday night’s Showtime main event. “Thank you for bringing honor to our country by becoming the newest Filipino boxing world champion. Welcome to the club.”

Magsayo (24-0, 16KOs) is now the fifth Filipino boxer to win a major title. He accomplished the feat by bringing to an end the longest active title reign among male boxers. Russell (33-2, 18KOs) – the 33-year-old southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland and the 2008 American Olympian – held the title for nearly six years and 10 months, dating back to his March fourth round knockout 2015 by Jhonny Gonzalez.

Only five successful defenses came during Russell’s reign, prolonged by extended absences from the ring, including a 23-month inactive stretch en route to Saturday’s game. Magsayo’s win changes the pecking order, with Thailand’s Thammanoon Niyomtrong (23-0.9KOs) now the longest-reigning male titlist, as he holds the full version of the WBA strawweight title since June 2016.

Directly behind Niyomtrong is Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22KOs), Magsayo’s compatriot who has held the IBF junior bantamweight title since September 2016. Also promoted by MP Promotions, Ancajas attempts the tenth defense of his title against undefeated Argentine contender Fernando Daniel Martinez as part of a Feb. 26 Showtime triple header from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

Magsayo and Ancajas are joined by fourth division and current WBC bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire, three division and current WBO bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero and IBF strawweight belt holder Rene Mark Cuarto on the list of current Philippine major title holders.

Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39KOs) withdrew from the sport after a unanimous 12-round decision to Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas last August. The defeat negated his bid to regain the WBA welterweight title that he lost outside the ring due to reigned inactivity. Pacquiao has enjoyed four separate welterweight titles, one of eight division record titles reign over the course of his 26-year professional career that is undoubtedly destined for the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Magsayo entered Saturday’s match as the mandatory challenger, taking the rankings after a come-from-behind tenth round knockout of Julio Ceja last August. The feat came on Ugas-Pacquiao’s undercard, the only time Magsayo dealt a card with his legendary compatriot and current promoter.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

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