Unbeaten Mark Magsayo defeated longtime champion Gary Russell Jr. by majority decision Saturday night to capture the WBC Featherweight World Championship in the SHOWTIME main event from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. in a Premier Boxing Champions event that was brimming with action from the telecast opener to its conclusion.
“This is my dream come true,” said Magsayo. “Ever since I was a kid, this was my dream. I’m so proud that I’m a champion now. Thank you so much to the Filipino fans for the support.”
A protégé of Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao, Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) was able to end the reign of boxing’s longest male world champion by defeating Russell (31-2, 18 KOs) across 12 hard-fought rounds. Magsayo was able to use his size advantage to lean on Russell throughout the fight and benefited from an apparent injury to Russell’s right shoulder that became discernable in round four.
“I believe I have a torn tendon in my right shoulder,” said Russell. “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.
“I hurt the shoulder about two weeks ago,” continued Russell. “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 skillsets to my fans and the people that came out to show support and love. Please believe that I will be back. I still want these fights.”
“I knew that he was hurt in round four,” said Magsayo. “I took advantage of it because he was only using one hand. This was my opportunity to follow through. My coach was telling me to use good combinations and follow through. He said this is your chance to become a champion and now I am a champion.”
Russell appeared to injure the shoulder throwing a short right hand and immediately winced in pain and retreated from the action. Russell was able to re-adjust his game plan and had success focusing solely on variations of his left hand. He slowed down the action and landed a number of clean shots to keep Magsayo at bay in a display of ring generalship, but it wasn’t enough to win over the judges.
The Freddie Roach-trained Magsayo was able to land 41% of his power shots in the contest, a significant improvement from the 28% clip that Russell’s previous eight opponents had connected on, according to CompuBox. Russell was limited to just 64 jabs thrown and was out-landed 150 to 69.
Magsayo continued to put the pressure on in the later rounds and was able to ride that activity to victory, including an attack that nearly dropped Russell late in round 10, thrilling the Filipino fans in attendance.
At the end of the 12 rounds, Magsayo edged out the decision on the judges’ cards with a 114-114 score overruled by two judges seeing the bout 115-113 for Magsayo. After the fight, Russell indicated that he believed he still won
the fight, while Magsayo left open the possibility of a rematch.
“I believed in my skillset and what I bring into the ring,” said Russell. “I felt like I still won the fight to be honest. Hell yeah I want a rematch. Would he want a rematch? That’s the question.”
“It’s up to my promotional team,” said Magsayo when asked about a potential rematch. “But I’m willing to fight anybody. I’m the champion now!”
Photo: Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME