Mark Magsayo upset to stop Gary Russell Jr.’s long WBC featherweight title reign

The longest active run of a boxing male boxing champion is over.

Mark Magsayo upset Gary Russell Jr. by majority decision Saturday night – 114-114; 115-113 and 115-113 – to capture the WBC featherweight title in Atlantic City, NJ, taking away Russell’s title after nearly seven years with the WBC belt.

“This is my dream come true,” Magsayo said on Showtime after the fight. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid.”

33-year-old Russell (31-2, 18 KOs) started Saturday at six years and 10 months as the longest-reigning current male boxing champion – holding the title from March 28, 2015, when he suffered a technical knockout recorded Jhonny Gonzalez in the fourth round.

But Russell’s reign had not been incredibly active. He struggled five times between winning the title and losing it on Saturday – including a nearly two-year hiatus from his victory over Tugstsogt Nyambayar on February 8, 2020 to Saturday. Russell has not fought more than once in a calendar year since 2014.

And Russell’s time as champion ended with him not being at full strength – he said after the fight he thought he had a torn tendon in his right shoulder, something he injured two weeks ago. Russell said he may need surgery and that the injury is from before the 2008 Olympics. He threw 64 jabs – far fewer than he normally does in a fight. He often seemed to avoid throwing a lot of punches with his right arm.

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

Russell said he will request a rematch. He said he fought because “that’s what true champions do” and felt he still “missed a boxing match” from Magsayo despite his injury.

Magsayo, 26, from the Philippines, said he noticed Russell was injured during the fight and tried to take advantage of it in the later rounds.

Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) threw 203 jabs in the fight. Magsayo also threw and landed Russell at 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 to really damage him, but it was clear he was essentially fighting with one hand.

Meanwhile, Magsayo stayed aggressive throughout most of the fight – apart from pausing for a few rounds, which really kept Russell in the fight.

Before it became clear that Russell was injured, Magsayo, Russell’s clear attacker, came out strong in the first two rounds, forcing him to resign several times. He was stronger – landing 26 power punches to Russell’s seven – and seemed to be moving better too.

This victory makes Magsayo the latest Filipino champion – and Manny Pacquiao immediately congratulated him on Twitter, welcoming him to the club and “bringing glory to our country by becoming the latest Filipino boxing champion”.

“I’m so proud,” Magsayo said. “That I’m a champion now.”

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