After more than six years and five successful title defenses, Gary Russell Jr.’s reign as WBC featherweight champion has come to an end. Mark Magsayo defeated Russell to become the new champion Saturday night inside the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.
Magsayo, who was fighting for a major title for the first time in his career, won via majority decision (114-114, 115-113, 115-113). This is a moment the 26-year-old, who is a member of the Manny Pacquiao teaching tree, will never forget.
“This is my dream come true. This was my dream since I was a kid, and now I’m world champion,” Magsayo said after the fight.
Congratulations, @markmagsayo_MMM, on your first world championship! Thank you for bringing honor to our country by becoming the latest Filipino world boxing champion. Welcome to the club.
— Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) January 23, 2022
Russell, who fought for the first time since 2020, was dealing with personal issues outside the ring, and an injury he suffered heading into the fight. This was a different kind of layoff for him as he normally fights once a year. He still was ready to go the distance.
Russell’s defense looked sharp at first as he landed jabs early in the fight. He landed an inside jab but Magsayo landed multiple body shots that received no answer. Magsayo continued with body shots and an inside uppercut. “Magnifico” finished the first round with a right hand and a left to the body.
Magsayo being the aggressor when each round began became a theme. He landed body shots and an overhand right in the second. Combination shots rained down as Russell tried to jab his way out of trouble.
Russell continued to utilize the jab, and the champion attempted inside shots in the third. Magsayo landed hooks to the face as Russell could not play it close the vest. Russell did land an overhand body shot, but Magsayo already had Russell by the ropes when the fourth round started. Magsayo was smothering Russell, and he landed a big jab to the face. Russell landed a big right to give himself space.
Later on in the fight, it appeared as though Russell’s right arm was hurting him. It was noticeable when he hadn’t landed a jab in a few rounds. Through six, Magsayo had landed 85 shots to Russell’s 39.
Magsayo continued with combinations and repeatedly pushed Russell against the ropes. He blocked everything when Russell attempted shots of his own. A one-handed Russell could not stop Magsayo’s jabs in Round 7, and by Round 8 his hands were down. Magsayo landed multiple shots to Russell’s face and landed a big body shot in Round 9. Russell was once again stuck in the corner in the 10th round as Magsayo pressured him.
By the time the championship rounds took place, the result was inevitable. Russell, in survival mode, was getting clipped as he was going for inside shots. He tried to make it interesting by landing clean shots before the bell, but the end result was another upset, a major theme of boxing the past few months.
According to CompuBox, Magsayo landed 150 punches to Russell’s 69. Russell only landed double-digit shots in a round once, while Magsayo did it all but three times in the contest.
Russell, who lost a seven-fight win streak in addition to his title, was not deterred despite the loss.
“He had his hands full with a fighter with one arm the whole fight. I gave him a boxing lesson,” Russell said after the fight. He is looking to compete in a rematch once he heals.