After more than six years and five successful title defenses, Gary Russell Jr.’s reign as the WBC featherweight champion has come to an end. Mark Magsayo defeated Russell to become the new champion on Saturday night inside the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, NJ
Magsayo, who was fighting for a major title for the first time in his career, won by majority decision (114-114, 115-113, 115-113). This is a moment the 26-year-old, who is a member of Manny Pacquiao’s teaching tree, will never forget.
“This is my dream come true. This was my dream since I was a kid, and now I’m a world champion,” Magsayo said after the fight.
Congratulations, @markmagsayo_MMM, in your first world championship! Thank you for bringing honor to our country by becoming the last Filipino boxing world champion. Welcome to the club.
— Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) January 23, 2022
Russell, who was fighting for the first time since 2020, was dealing with personal issues outside the ring and an injury he sustained before the fight. This was a different kind of release for him as he normally fights once a year. He was still ready to go the distance.
Russell’s defense looked strong early on as he landed punches early in the fight. He landed an inside jab, but Magsayo landed multiple body shots that went unanswered. Magsayo followed up with body shots and an inside uppercut. “Magnificent” finished the first round with a right hand and a left to the body.
Magsayo being the aggressor as each round began became an issue. He landed body shots and an overhand right hand in the second. Combined shots rained down as Russell tried to get out of trouble.
Russell continued to use the jab and the champion tried inside shots in the third. Magsayo landed hooks to the face as Russell was unable to close the vest. Russell landed an overhand body shot, but Magsayo already had Russell tied against the ropes as the fourth round began. Magsayo was choking Russell and landed a big punch to his face. Russell landed a big right hand to give himself space.
Later in the fight, it looked like Russell’s right arm was hurting. He showed when he hadn’t landed a jab in a few rounds. Through six, Magsayo had connected on 85 shots to Russell’s 39.
Magsayo continued with combinations and repeatedly pushed Russell into the ropes. He blocked everything when Russell tried his own shots on him. Russell single-handedly couldn’t stop Magsayo’s jabs in the seventh round, and by the eighth round his hands were down. Magsayo landed multiple punches to Russell’s face and landed a big body shot in round 9. Russell once again got caught in the corner in round 10 when Magsayo put pressure on him.
When the championship rounds were held, the outcome was inevitable. Russell, in survival mode, was being cropped as he searched for internal 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 in recent months.
According to CompuBox, Magsayo landed 150 punches to Russell’s 69. Russell only landed double-digit punches 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 undeterred despite the loss.
“He was very busy with a one-armed fighter the whole fight. I gave him a boxing lesson,” Russell said after the fight. He is looking to compete in a rematch once he recovers.