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Mark Magsayo ends Gary Russell Jr.‘s reign, becomes new WBC World Featherweight champion

Written By | Jan 23, 2022
Mark Magsayo (left) took advantage of his opportunity to become the newest champion from the Philippines, defeating Gary Russell Jr. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing Magsayo

Mark Magsayo (left) took advantage of his opportunity to become the newest champion from the Philippines, defeating Gary Russell Jr. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

SAN DIEGO, Calif., January 21, 2022 – Filipino fight fans worldwide celebrated their nation’s newest champion Saturday. Challenger Mark Magsayo took advantage of his opportunity, defeating boxing’s longest reigning champion Gary Russell Jr.

After Russell Jr. held the title just two months short of seven years, Magsayo is now the WBC World Featherweight champion via majority decision. Scores were 115-113 X 2 and 114-114.

The fight didn’t appear as close to many observers. Showtime Boxing scorer Steve Farhood had it 116-112 for Magsayo. Our scorecard read 117-111 for Magsayo.

Mark Magsayo drove the offense and outlanded an injured Gary Russell Jr. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

“This is my dream, my dream come true,” said an emotional Magsayo tightly holding his WBC belt. “My dream since I was a kid, an amateur. Now I’m a world champion. I’m so proud I’m the champion now. Thanks for my support to the Filipino fans, and the fans here.” One of those supporters sent Magsayo a message via Twitter.




Mark Magsayo Manny Pacquiao

Eight division world champion Manny Pacquiao, who is also Mark Magsayo’s promoter, congratulated him on his victory. Photo: Twitter

Magsayo (24 -0, 16 KOs) fought a smart, polished fight fu l of speed, attack, and solid punch selection focused on body punches and snapping uppercuts. Magsayo used his size and reach well, pressuring Russell Jr. of Capitol Heights, Maryland (31-2, 18 KOs) and driving the offense to win rounds.

Russell Jr.’s long absences from the ring between fights, family distractions, and a tender right shoulder caught up with him in his sixth title defense. Credit his undeniable skills keeping him in the fight at all. Russell Jr. relied on what he had left, his defense and footwork, to try and neutralize Magsayo, but his meager offensive output hurt him.

Magsayo landed 150 of 543 total punches, against just 6  of 32 total punches by Russell Jr. He outlanded Russell Jr. in all 12 rounds. Russell Jr. has one of the most active jabs in boxing. It was missing in action in Saturday’s fight. He’s often a slow starter, but his jab never left the starting line.

Magsayo: ‘This was my opportunity’

Mark Magsayo

Mark Magsayo says he’s willing to fight anyone as the reigning champion but didn’t commit to a rematch. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

“I know that I hurt him in the third round,” said Magsayo. “I hit him with a good shot, so that’s why he got hurt. I took advantage of it because he was only using one hand. This was my opportunity to follow through. My coach (trainer Freddie Roach) was telling me to use good combinations and follow through. This is going to be your dream. He said this is your chance to become a champ on!”

In the second half of the bout, Russell Jr. was making Magsayo miss more often as Magsayo slowed down his pace. As a one-handed fighter, Russell Jr. did what he could with the l ft. Many fighters would have folded.

Russell Jr. hinted at the injury before the fight. He said he initially suffered the damage before the 2008 Olympics but had avoided surge y to his tendon by building strength. He s id he reinjured it two weeks ago while training. It let him down Saturday. He didn’t appear in top condition.

Gary Russell Jr. ddid what he could, but he had too much working against him. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing Mark Magsayo

Gary Russell Jr. did what he could, but he had too much working against him. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

“I haven’t competed in almost two years. This is what true champions do. I wanted to step into the ring and display my superiority regardless of the injury,” said Russell Jr. He still felt he’d given Magsayo a boxing lesson.

“I couldn’t use m  right arm, but I was still able to throw effective shots. I hurt t e shoulder about two weeks ago. But I went through with the fight because I’m a true champion and this is what warriors do. I’m going to fight regardless of what the situation is. I refuse to not compete and display my skills to my fans and the people that came out to show support and love,” said Russell Jr. “I felt like I still won the fight, to be honest.”

Russell Jr. expressed interest in a rematch; Magsayo deferred the question to his management but also said, “I’m willing to fight anybody. I’m the champion now!” Although he lost to Gervonta Davis, Leo Santa Cruz still holds a title and is scheduled to return on February 5. A Mexico vs. Phillippines unification matchup in Southern California is a guaranteed good time.

The 33-year-old Russell Jr. hasn’t ever listened to criticism about his inactivity. He wasn’t at his best. He will need to take a hard look at how much his choices contributed to the loss. He vowed he would be back. Fans would welcome Russell Jr. at his best.



 Subriel Matías exacts his revenge on Petros Ananyan

Subriel Matias scored a the first knockdown ever suffered by Petros Ananyan to get revenge in their rematch Saturday. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

Subriel Matias scored the first knockdown ever suffered by Petros Ananyan to get revenge in their rematch Saturday. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

If you enjoyed the first fight between super lightweights Subriel Matías of Puerto Rico (18-1, 18 KOs) and Petros Ananyan of Russia (16-3-2,  7 KOs), you got more of whacha like in the all-action rematch. This time, it was Matías delivering the left hook for a knockdown to Ananyan en route to an eight-round TKO win to avenge the single loss of his career. Although Ananyan made it to his corner after the knockdown, referee Mary Glover stopped the fight on the advice of ringside physician Dr. Nina Radcliffe.

The pair picked up right where they left off after their first bout in October. Matias stormed out of the gate at the bell, and Ananyan stayed right with him. The relentless pace was exhausting to watch, never mind the stamina required by the two men in the ring.

Subriel Matias threw all he had at Petros Ananyan, and it paid off. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

Matías made use of his advantage in hand speed and his exceptional body punching. Referee Mary Glover deducted a point from Matías in the seventh round for repeated low blows, but it didn’t make a difference. Ananyan did what he could, landing several impressive combinations. A left hook rocked Matías at times, but there were too few of them.

“This is the fight I’ve always wanted. Since my defeat, I wanted to avenge this loss,” said Matías. “When you’re sure you know what you have, you take the fight. “I’m basically not a hard-hitter. The way that I fight is like cutting down a tree. Just keep hitting them. I think I can improve my power, but let’s see what happens with time.”

The pair threw a total of 1,439 punches in eight rounds. Matías landed 252 or 678 (37%), Ananyan 164 of 761 (22%). One-third of Matías’s power shots were body punches.

Lukas scores a draw, but denied a knockdown and a win over Nyambayar

Sakaria Lukas's trip from Namibia was a gamble, and it nearly paid off with a win over Tugstsogt Nyambayar of Mongolia. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

Sakaria Lukas’s trip from Namibia was a gamble, and it nearly paid off with a win over Tugstsogt Nyambayar of Mongolia. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

Sakaria Lukas of Namibia (25-1-1, 17 KOs) took on 2012 Olympic silver medalist Tugstsogt Nyambayar of Mongolia (12-2-1, 9 KOs) on four days’ notice and traveled for 30 hours from Africa to New Jersey. Lukas won a moral victory, if not the actual fight, getting a split draw. Scores were 96-94 for each man and 95-95 on the third card.

Nyambayar rocked Lukas early in the first round, and it seems it would be an easy night for him. But Lukas didn’t give in. He stood tough, recovered like a veteran, and answered back. In the eighth round, it seemed Lukas scored a knockdown after an exchange, but referee Eddie Claudio ruled it a slip. It fired up Lukas, and he finished strong. Getting the knockdown would have given him the victory, but perhaps it at least drove Lukas to the draw.

“Everyone saw it was a knockdown that should have given me a split-decision win,” said Lukas. “I fought my heart out, and I deserved the win. I believe I won the fight, but I can’t do anything about the decision. We had the fans behind us. They know what happened.” Lukas said he now wants to face Russell Jr. due to his performance.

Nyambayar disagreed, of course. “I thought I won the fight, and I didn’t believe it was a knockdown. It was a hard fight, especially against an opponent on short notice. My goal is to fight for the world title again.

Claudio spoke to Showtime’s Jim Gray about the lack of the knockdown call, which made the difference in Lukas getting the win. “What I saw in real time was him falling down not from the knockout blow but from his body language,” explained Claudio. Watching the replay, he said, “He throws a left hook, and he goes down. I don’t see no shot. In real-time, I don’t see no shot. On the replay, I didn’t even see him get hit.” Watching again, Claudio didn’t see the knockdown.

Whether or not you agree, bravo to the New Jersey State Athletic Commission and Claudio for their willingness to discuss the issue for fans and look at it again.

On the non-televised undercard, super welterweight Evan “Yung Holy” Holyfield of Houston (9-0, 6 KOs), son of heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, remained undefeated with a dominating decision win over Chris Rollins of Virginia (5-4-1, 4 KOs). Holyfield was given all but one round on the three judges’ scorecards.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning veteran boxing journalist. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media at @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.  

Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award-winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.