Mark Magsayo believes the adversity he was forced to overcome in his last fight has made him a better fighter heading into the toughest test of his pro career.

Looming overhead for the unbeaten featherweight contender from the Philippines is a dangerous title challenge versus long-reigning WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18KOs). Magsayo earned the opportunity the hard way, having to climb off the canvas and rally from a scorecard deficit to knock out former WBC junior featherweight titlist Julio Ceja last August 21 in Las Vegas.

“I learned a lot from that fight,” Magsayo admitted during a recent Zoom media conference call to otherwise discuss the fight with Russell. “I learned a lesson how to better box. I made an adjustment in the middle of the fight and knocked him out.”

Magsayo (23-0, 16KOs) floored Ceja in the opening round but was himself on the canvas in round five and trailing 58-54 on all three scorecards after six rounds. A mid-fight adjustment allowed the unbeaten Filipino to regain control before putting Ceja down and out with a pair of right hands early in round ten. Magsayo trailed 87-82, 86-83 and 86-83 at the time of the stoppage, though remained confident of victory and determined to rise to the occasion given what was at stake.

“Sir Sean [Gibbons, president of MP Promotions] told me that if I won that fight, I wouid [next] face Gary Russell,” noted Magsayo, who enters his first career title fight. “So, I had to win to fight Gary Russell.”

Russell-Magsayo tops the January 22 edition of Showtime Championship Boxing, the 2022 debut of the sport’s longest-running current televised boxing series. The show airs live from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox