Well…the Featherweight division has a new WBC world titlist, and his name is 🇵🇭Mark Magsayo (24-0-0, 16KO) of the Philippines, as he managed to outpoint 🇺🇸Gary Russell Jr. (31-2-0, 18KO) in order to take his title, and to cut his 5 defense reign short to usher in some more new blood into a constantly changing division. Russell however wasn’t lying when he hinted at an injury during an press interview in the week that was leading up to the fight. With fans and pundits wondering what the injury was for Russell, it was the worst kind that you can have, as it was a structural injury to his lead shoulder, which heavily hampered his ability to sweep the right hook with authority, and compromising his jab to the point where he literally didn’t throw any -at all – from round 6 to round 12, and couldn’t put power behind it.
Magsayo, though some mistakes were made in the bout, stayed busy enough to take advantage of the former world titlists compromised approach, and did enough solid work with a body attack, and with the uppercut in order to tack the points on, and to keep Gary in check. Magsayo has a huge Filipino backing, so this victory will only fan the flames of his support contingent, and propel him into becoming upper echelon in terms of his popularity amongst his people.
As for Russell, this wasn’t the way to go, and objective minds can formulate that this bout should not have any bearings on where he stands in the Featherweight division, and the threat he commands, as he is still arguably its most skilled fighter when operating in full health. For that, people will clamor for a rematch, so we can get a much more accurate representation on where each fighter stands, and to see who would come out on top with both fighters at the top of their game.
HOW THIS EVENT ENDED UP UNFOLDING
The opening stanza was a very impressive one for Magsayo, taking the control early by instilling the power right jab, mixing it up well with hooks to the body, looking to counter Russell’s counters, and staying closed defensively with a responsible stance to be able to dart in without effective return fire. Russell made some adaptations in the second round by getting his lead right foot outside, so that he could land the double and triple jabs, and was looking for Mark to lunge in to counter. Magsayo did some beautiful work with the uppercut, and continuing to go to the body, avoiding that urge to lunge.
It appears that Magsayo had a beat on Russell’s timing, which is incredibly difficult to do, and Russell was having trouble identifying what Magsayo was doing, up until about the last 40 seconds of the third round, finding home occasionally for the overhand left in some skirmishes. The 4th round was a very interesting one, as Magsayo managed to hurt the world titlist with a down jab…but Russell also buckled due to his lead shoulder jamming, which was clearly the injury that he had hinted at in a pre-fight interview.
The one issue that Magsayo has is that he often doesn’t fight in the correct range to take advantage of the situation, and him pushing a little too far forward in round 5 was giving Russell opportunities to counter with the left cross…especially considering Russell’s right shoulder injury. Mark did get himself back on the ball in the 6th though, landing a few cagey right hands around the guard, and still found opportunities to split the guard with the uppercut. Russell’s punch output drastically dipped, and were forced to harken back to the injury that was hampering his ability to throw.
Russell by round 7 was still having issues getting off, but certainly wasn’t as drastic as the previous round. For the first time, Magsayo began to look a bit predictable as his productivity began to slip. Russell was in full tilt in the 8th round as Magsayo’s weakness to adapt and defend the rear hand was on full display. The one armed titlist found the range he needed to be at in order to land the sharp counter left hands, and did it relentlessly throughout the round.
In rounds 9 and 10, Magsayo’s own punch rate took a dip for whatever reason, and Russell was sill relying on his footwork, and the right hand to get through. Mark dedicated himself back to the body work in the championship rounds that he had big success with early, and did a good job in forcing Gary on his backfoot. Russell didn’t do much of anything in the 11th round, and his title reign was in trouble as a compromised commodity short on options to throw. He did however let loose just a little bit in the 12th, but there wasn’t much else left that he could do.
As the final bell concluded, one came to the conclusion that the man nicknamed “Magnifico” would get his hand raised, but that the fight may be closer than what the official punch stats indicated, and it played out just as that. One Judge oddly had it a draw…but overruled by the other 2 Judges, it was indeed Mark Magsayo who heard them coveted words “and the new!”, and of course he celebrated as you would expect him to, securing the biggest victory of his young, blossoming career.
It is bittersweet however to onlookers and pundits, as both combatants were not at their best together, so in the minds of many, there will be an *asterisk associated with this contest. There is no rematch clause, and it may be likely that we won’t see this one again, though it would be great to see 2 high ranked Featherweights run it back, to take this equation off of the table completely for a cleaner tangible result.
One may ask “why did Gary Russell take this fight knowing the severity of his injury“ and he gave some answers. He stated that he injured his shoulder about 2 weeks ago in training camp. Considering that he had spent 23 months outside of the ring, he was itching to get back into the ring at any cost. It is not the brightest of decisions considering his desires to move up in weight for major assignments to play Russian Roulette with his health, however, we feel that there may be another reason at play that he doesn’t want to bring up.
His father and normal Head-Trainer Gary Russell Sr. has been going through some hardships, as complications from diabetes led to the amputation of one of his feet, and has been sidelined by it. Perhaps Russell Jr. wanted to take the ring to honor his father who is going through those hard trials and tribulations. Each fighter deals with their turmoil differently, and considering it all, that should never be taken lightly.