Magsayo halts Russell’s long featherweight reign

Boxing

The longest active run by a male titleholder in boxing is over.

Mark Magsayo upset Gary Russell Jr. by majority decision on Saturday night — 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113 — to claim the WBC featherweight title in Atlantic City, New Jersey, taking away Russell’s title after almost seven years with the WBC belt.

“This is my dream come true,” Magsayo said on Showtime following the fight. “This is my dream since I was a kid.”

The 33-year-old Russell (31-2, 18 KO) entered Saturday as the longest-reigning current male champion in boxing at six years, 10 months — holding the title since March 28, 2015, when he recorded a technical knockout of Jhonny Gonzalez in the fourth round.

But Russell’s reign had not been incredibly active. He fought five times between winning the title and then when he lost it Saturday — including a break of almost two years from his win over Tugstsogt Nyambayar on Feb. 8, 2020, until Saturday. Russell hasn’t fought more than once in a calendar year since 2014.

And Russell’s time as champion ended with him not at full strength — saying postfight he believed he has a torn tendon in his right shoulder, something he felt he hurt two weeks ago. Russell said he might need surgery and that it was an old injury dating back to the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics. He threw 64 jabs, far fewer than he usually does in a fight. He often seemed to be avoiding throwing many punches with his right arm.

“I refused to put this fight back, and I fought with one arm,” Russell said on Showtime afterward. “He had his hands full with a fighter with one arm the whole fight. I gave him a boxing lesson.”

Russell said he will request a rematch. The Washington, D.C., native explained he fought because “that’s what true champions do” and that he felt he still gave Magsayo “a boxing match,” despite his injury.

The 26-year-old Magsayo, from the Philippines, said he noticed Russell was hurt during the fight and tried to take advantage of it throughout the later rounds.

Magsayo (24-0, 16 KO) threw 203 jabs. Magsayo also out-threw and out-landed Russell in power punches. Magsayo landed 140 of 340 power punches, while Russell landed 58 of 259.

Russell managed to be evasive enough to avoid many of Magasyo’s attempts at truly damaging him, but it was clear Russell was essentially fighting one-handed.

Meanwhile, Magsayo remained aggressive through the majority of the bout — other than a lull for a couple of rounds that really kept Russell in the fight.

Before it became clear Russell was hurt, Magsayo came out strong in the first two rounds, the clear aggressor to Russell, forcing him to step back multiple times. Magsayo was more powerful — landing 26 power punches to Russell’s seven — and seemed to move better too.

This win makes Magsayo the latest champion from the Philippines — and Manny Pacquiao immediately congratulated him on Twitter, welcoming him to the club and for “bringing honor to our country by becoming the latest Filipino world boxing champion.”

“I am so proud,” Magsayo said, “that I am a champion now.”

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