Draped in the familiar flag of the Philippines, a star was born on Saturday night in Las Vegas. It wasn’t Manny Pacquiao, though he was in the building to fight Yordenis Ugas in the main event.
Instead, it was his protege, Mark Magsayo, who introduced himself to the world with an electrifying knockout over Julio Ceja.
Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) dropped Ceja in the first round and looked like he might be in for an early night. But Ceja battled back and quickly took control of the fight.
He repeatedly hurt the Filipino prospect with body shots, and the pro-Pacquiao crowd started to brace for what would have been a major upset.
But Magsayo, who trains with Pacquiao under Freddie Roach at Wild Card gym in Los Angeles, started to regain control as the bout reached the later rounds.
In the 10th, he landed a right hand that backed Ceja against the ropes. With the Mexican badly wobbled, Magsayo connected with a perfect short right that knocked Ceja unconscious.
The crowd reacted, and after Magsayo stopped to land a back flip, he celebrated with his corner.
“I got knocked down and was surprised, but I focused my mind on what I wanted, a world championship shot,” he said. “It’s my dream today and now it’s coming true. Hopefully my next fight is a world title shot.”
In the main card opener, featherweight prospect Carlos Castro overcame early adversity and knocked out veteran Oscar Escandon.
Castro (27-0, 12 KOs) was an 11-1 favorite but was badly rocked at the end of the first round. He recovered, though, and took control of the fight with a stiff jab that often stopped the hard-charging Escandon in his tracks.
Castro started to land power shots, badly hurting Escandon on multiple occasions as the fight went on.
In the 10th and final round, Escandon went down and looked shaky when he rose to his feet. He tried to take a knee to buy more time, but the referee stopped the fight at one minute, eight seconds.
The co-feature didn’t exactly live up to the two preceding fights. Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero — both faded former world titlists — battled through 10 mostly uneventful rounds.
Guerrero took the victory, winning a unanimous decision with three identical scores of 96-94.
The two men came out firing, but both seemed to run out of gas quickly. It was a fight that certainly could have gone either way on the scorecards, but it was Guerrero who scored the narrow win.