ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – Mark Magsayo couldn’t help but temper his enthusiasm the night of August 21.
The undefeated Filipino featherweight contender’s spectacular knockout of Julio Ceja became an immediate contender for yearly awards. It also moved Magsayo into position to challenge Gary Russell Jr. for the WBC 126-pound championship Saturday night at Borgata Event Center.
Magsayo still couldn’t rest easy without knowing whether Ceja would be able to return safely to his wife and son in Mexico. He was met with surprise when he called Ceja the day after their fight to check on his condition.
“I’m happy that I won by KO, but I worry what happened to him because he has a family, too, like me,” Magsayo told BoxingScene.com. “We’re just doing our business in the ring. So, after that fight I called him in the hospital. His response was good. He was so happy that I was calling him. That never happened to him, that the opponent’s calling him, asking, ‘How are you?’
“He was so happy that he heard my voice. I’m happy, too, that he’s OK, that his family is together and they keep him in the family. It’s just a sport. We’re only doing our job in the ring.”
Medical personnel tended to Ceja for several minutes after he fell to the canvas. Ceja walked out of the ring, but his handlers assisted him as he made his way toward his dressing room.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission understandably placed Ceja (32-5-1, 28 KOs) on an indefinite medical suspension following that brutal defeat. He has remained out of the gym since he returned to his family, but he plans to resume his career.
The 26-year-old Magsayo, meanwhile, believes he is more than prepared to upset Russell in a 12-round, 126-pound championship match that’ll headline a “Showtime Championship Boxing” tripleheader (9 p.m. ET). The 33-year-old Russell (31-1, 18 KOs), a southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, is listed by most online sportsbooks as a 4-1 favorite to beat Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs), who works with International Boxing Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach.
Magsayo was able to fully focus on preparation for the biggest fight of his career because he knew Ceja would at least be able to lead a normal life outside of the ring. Though the 28-year-old Ceja expects to fight again, he’ll have to pass a battery of medical exams for the NSAC to lift his suspension.
“I’m a fighter, too, so I understand what he’s feeling,” Magsayo said. “He lost a fight and then he goes to the hospital when there was no response [from Ceja] after the knockdown. I liked to hear from him that he was OK. When I knew he was OK, in my mind and my heart, I was happy for him.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.