All world champions whether blue chip or unnoticed always start somewhere. That usual start usually comes in the form of an inner city boxing gym. I took a trip into Paterson, NJ today to take a look at some up and coming prospects in the fight game. I haven’t done that in a while, so it was time. I met an undefeated prospect at Ike and Randy’s Gym on 98 Park Ave by the name of John Magda who is 2-0 and campaigns in the super middleweight division. It’s almost something of a rarity when you see a white fighter in an inner city boxing gym but to Magda, this was his calling.
“I’ve always been a competitor even when I was smaller, me and my brother used to wrestle. He was bigger but I keep fighting and even when I spar it’s the same thing. I come to fight, it’s not always about winning or losing, it’s about giving it 100%, the competitive nature in me that loves the ring,” explained Magda.
Originally from Bayonne, NJ, now fighting out of Rutherford, NJ, Magda fell in love with the sweet science when he would accompany his older brother to the boxing gym. His brother who is now 24, took time off from boxing and is still an amateur. John had about 60 amateur fights before turning pro at the age of 22. For a guy that was ranked the second best light heavyweight in the United States and has traveled to Ireland and the Ukraine to compete, Magda felt the time was right to make boxing his profession.
“You learn a lot in the amateurs and competing at the highest level without worrying about losing, of course you want to win but you learn a lot. Next Olympics isn’t until 2016, so I think it was time to turn pro. I could have waited another year or two but that was far off.”
So here he is, a professional fighter. Now he’s not a part time fighter and a fulltime something else. He is a full time fighter and even he knows the struggle of it all.
“I’m a fulltime fighter. I work part time at night, I teach cardio boxing but I’m a full time boxer. It’s hard because you put the hours in and you’re working long hours and you’re not getting paid as much as you should be if you’re working a full time job, nothing’s guaranteed in boxing, you got to work and earn it.”
But this was a profession he chose, A super middleweight that can campaign at light heavyweight who is a southpaw like his favorite fighter Manny Pacquiao, he caught the eye of manager Peter Festa and gym owner Phil Shevack, especially Festa who had lbeen out of boxing since managing the career of Adrian Stone.
“It was timing really. I had a son that was very active in sports. I always thought about getting back in, I spoke with Phil and I met the kid, it was clear that the kid could fight. I was struck by his work ethic and how much he wants this. It was interesting, I know the ups and downs and he felt comfortable. I love the kid; he’s a great fighter, great kid. I think the whole boxing world will know about him soon,” stated Festa.
Festa knows the ins and outs of the sport and the difficulty of bringing up a prospect that may have been overlooked by the top promoters.
“As a manager, my philosophy for the younger boxers is to keep them busy. We believe in fighting them often barring injury. Right now, we’re at a 3 week 4 week pace. We want to get him a fight on October 16th in Reading, Pa, we fought him in New Hampshire and in North Carolina. We’re trying to bring him closer to his local fan base, build it here, he’s got buzz on the internet off his last fight. We just want to keep him busy, we might do a card at the IZOD Center in December and we’re moving him towards that goal. We probably exceed what we wanted to do this year. I want him by next year’s spring to have like 8 to 10 fights,” explained Festa.
John was in agreement with his manager and his relationship to his manager is why he chose to not sign with a promoter just yet and entrust Festa with his career.
“He’s real local and I’ve known Phil Shevack forever. It was that connection. I think if I would have been with a bigger manager or promoter, I’ll be one of the many and not concentrated on. I think more of the attention is on me and it’s more personable. They were going to move me the right way while a promoter might have not moved me the right way.”
For Festa the right way is to get him fights and the ultimate goal is the bigger fights no matter who the promoter is.
“The goal is to get him big fights whether it’s the big promoter or mid-level promoters or even without a promoter. It’s difficult but it allows you to move your fighter in an independent way. Phil Shevack and I have been in the game a while and he trusts us on the business side, a lot of factors go into how and who we move him with and to.”
Both men are in agreement, as long as he keeps performing, then the fights will come and eventually the bigger fights. To Festa he sees a certain trait in him that you can’t train.
“The best thing about him is that he seems to rise to the occasion to the level of competition, one fighter that he reminds me of that and that was Adrian Stone, kid was a professional and did his job. He’s a long ways from a Manny Pacquiao but Manny Pacquiao can box and bang and John reminds me of that.”
For a fighter that tries to emulate Pacquiao that was music to his ears and that’s the style he wants to maintain. “I can do a little bit of everything, move and box. I like to keep my defense tight, stay busy and walk guys down throwing straight punches; I guess that’s why I like Manny Pacquiao, the way he throws his punches and pressuring people. I like to be the aggressor but if a guy comes at me, I can move also. For the people that haven’t seen me, I guarantee you’ll get action that’s worth your money.”