WBC Featherweight World Champion Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo will take on former world champion Rey Vargas in a battle of unbeatens that headlines action live on SHOWTIME Saturday, July 9 from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and will feature hard-hitting former world champion Brandon “The Heartbreaker” Figueroa taking on Carlos Castro in a WBC Featherweight Title Eliminator in the co-main event, plus the Derrick James-trained, unbeaten lightweight contender Frank Martin battles Panama’s power-punching Ricardo Núñez in the 10-round telecast opener.
Additional coverage will include a pair of bouts streamed live on the SHOWTIME SPORTS YouTube channel beginning at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. The action will see unbeaten welterweight contender Rashidi Ellis facing Argentine Olympian Alberto Palmetta in a 10-round duel, plus San Antonio’s own Ramon Cardenas battling Venezuela’s Michell Banquez in a 10-round bantamweight attraction.
The Filipino sensation Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) fights out of Pasig City, Metro Manila by way of Los Angeles, Calif., and became the latest champion from the boxing-rich nation in January when he outpointed longtime champion Gary Russell Jr. to capture the 126-pound title on SHOWTIME. The 26-year-old earned the opportunity by knocking out former champion Julio Ceja in the 10th round of a fight he trailed on the scorecards in August 2021. Magsayo is trained by Freddie Roach in Southern California and owns 12-round decision victories over Shoto Hayashi and Ramiro Robles, in addition to a sixth-round stoppage of former title challenger Chris Avalos.
“I am very thankful to my team for giving me the opportunity to defend my title in San Antonio,” said Magsayo. “I’m excited to be fighting in the same venue where my idol Manny Pacquiao fought Marco Antonio Barrera. That was the first fight I ever saw and the reason I started boxing. We are preparing for a strong Mexican fighter in Rey Vargas. Everyone knows what the Philippines vs. Mexico boxing rivalry brings to the ring and I’m excited to display my talents for the boxing fans in Texas and watching around the world.”
The former WBC 122-pound world champion, Vargas (35-0, 22 KOs), returned from a layoff due to injury to score a near shutout decision victory over Leonardo Baez in his featherweight debut in November 2021 on the undercard of Canelo vs. Plant. The 31-year-old went on the road to the U.K. to capture his title in 2017, winning a decision over previously unbeaten Gavin McDonnell. A native of Mexico City, Vargas made five successful defenses of his title, defeating top contenders Oscar Negrete, Ronny Rios and Azat Hovhannisyan. His fifth successful title defense came via unanimous decision over former world champion Tomoki Kameda in July 2019.
“This fight on July 9 will be a great battle against the Filipino warrior Mark Magsayo,” said Vargas, who trains under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristáin. “This is going to be exciting combat from start to finish. We know that he has great power, but we’ll be ready to counter that, and anything else he brings to the ring. This is going to be a magnificent fight and I can’t wait to step in there and compete.”
The 25-year-old Figueroa (22-1-1, 17 KOs) will debut at 126 pounds after dropping a 2021 Fight of the Year contender against Stephen Fulton Jr. in November on SHOWTIME, in which the two champions traded blows for 12 grueling rounds, eventually leading to what some observers thought was a controversial majority decision loss. Figueroa used his youth and relentless pressure to become the first person to defeat Luis Nery in their championship clash on SHOWTIME prior to the Fulton fight. A native of Weslaco, Texas, who has previously fought in San Antonio six times, Figueroa added to his family’s legacy by capturing the world title, joining his brother Omar Figueroa, who previously held the lightweight world championship.
“I’ve been waiting to get back in the ring to do what I love,” said Figueroa. “Carlos Castro is a great fighter and we both have to prove why we belong at the top of the 126-pound division. I can’t wait to fight in San Antonio in front of my fans, it’s really one of my favorite places to compete and I’m planning on giving everyone who comes out a great show like always.”
Castro (27-1, 12 KOs) was born in Sonora, Mexico and came to the U.S. as a child. Now living in Phoenix, Ariz., Castro most recently dropped a narrow split-decision against two-division champion Luis Nery in February, with one point on the cards ultimately holding Castro back from keeping his unbeaten record intact. The 28-year-old made his name as a 122-pound contender, but has also competed at featherweight, including a 10th round TKO victory over veteran contender Oscar Escandon in August 2021.
“I’m thrilled to be back in the ring,” said Castro. “I have some real business to handle against Figueroa on July 9. There’s no better fight for me to show that I’m back. I’m ready to show that I’m capable of being in the mix at the top of the division and to earn a shot at the title.”
The 27-year-old Martin (15-0, 11 KOs) rose up the lightweight rankings in 2021 with a pair of impressive victories before most recently delivering a New Year’s Day KO over Romero Duno. In 2021, Martin knocked out the previously unbeaten Jerry Perez in a dominating performance in April, before earning a unanimous decision over Ryan Kielczweski in August. Originally from Indianapolis, Ind., Martin now trains in the Dallas-area under the guidance of top trainer James alongside unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.
“I’ve been training hard in Dallas and I’m just excited and ready to go,” said Martin. “Núñez is a boxer-puncher, so I expect him to mix it up with some fast combinations and to try and throw my movement off, but I’ll be ready for all of that. Fight fans are going to enjoy an action fight with this one. We’ve got the speed, power and athleticism to put on an exciting show on July 9.”
Representing La Chorrera, Panama, Núñez (23-3, 21 KOs) enters this fight with knockout victories in his last two fights, including most recently stopping Richard Solano in the first round in October 2021. The 28-year-old moved back up to lightweight for those two victories after challenging three-division champion Gervonta Davis in July 2019 for a 130-pound title. Núñez has fought professionally since 2010 and has a brother also named Ricardo who is a veteran pro fighter in the featherweight division.
“I’m very happy to be back in a big fight on July 9,” said Núñez. “You’re going to see a whole new fighter against Martin. I’m coming to fight and impose my style on my opponent. Martin is a good boxer who’s made it to a high level, but he still has to show what he’s made of. I’m going to give one hundred percent to stop his rise and be the first person to beat him.”
The 29-year-old Ellis (23-0, 14 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time since October 2020, having earned a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Alexis Rocha in his last outing. Originally from Lynn, Mass., Ellis also owns a pair of victories over veteran contender Eddie Gomez, including a first-round knockout over Gomez in December 2016, before winning by unanimous decision in their 2019 rematch. He takes on the Buenos Aires, Argentina native Palmetta (17-1, 12 KOs), who represented his home country at the 2016 Olympics before turning pro in November 2016. The 32-year-old has won his last 11 fights, with 10 coming by stoppage, including most recently defeating Yeis Solano in October 2021.
“I’m excited to be back in the ring on July 9,” said Ellis. “I want to thank my whole team, and I can’t wait to deliver fireworks for everyone watching this fight. I’m looking to steal the show and I’m training hard to make sure I do just that. You definitely want to tune in and see what I’m going to do in this one.”
“This fight is very special because it is the same day as Argentinian Independence Day,” said Palmetta. “Four years ago, I made the decision to leave my home and travel to the United States to further my boxing career. I want to face the biggest opponents, so I can earn the opportunity to become a world champion. This fight against Ellis is the big step I’ve been looking for. On July 9, get ready, because I’m coming with hunger, hard work, and determination. It hasn’t been easy for me; I have fought through the pain and struggle, and because of it, I remain humble and more motivated than ever.”
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
WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. and unbeaten top challenger Mark Magsayo went face-to-face Thursday at the final press conference before they meet in the SHOWTIME main event this Saturday, January 22 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.
Here is what Russell and Magsayo had to say Thursday from the Music Box at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.:
GARY RUSSELL JR.
Photo: Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME
“At the end of the day, I’m a gladiator and I love what I do. I love showing the skillset that I bring to the sport of boxing. Nothing has come easy for us. This is not unfamiliar territory for me or my family.
“There are no concerns about ring rust. I’m always in the gym. I haven’t taken two months off from training since I was about four or five. Boxing is not just what I do, it’s a lifestyle for me.
“If I go out there and I destroy Mark on Saturday, then the big fights that I want, those fighters won’t be in a rush to face me, not that they are now anyway. I’m always trying to give the same message when I enter the ring. I believe in intellect over athleticism, no matter the situation.
“Mark is actually willing to put it all on the line. He’s going to go out there and give it his best. A lot of other fighters want to hide from the best. But I know Mark wants this badly. It’s a pleasure to share the field of battle with him.
“He said he’s going to show his skills and that’s what I’m looking forward to. I wish other fighters would step up like he did. That’s what the sport of boxing needs.
“I’m competing in the first month of the year, so if we can get through the fight injury-free, we’re going to try to swing back around this summer. I just need a willing opponent. I’m willing to move up in weight, but if I move up, I want to compete against another champion.”
Photo: Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME
“Gary is a really good fighter. I’ve wanted to fight him for a long time. Now the opportunity is here and I can’t wait for the fight. I’m not expecting any ring rust from Gary Russell.
“I think I’m the fighter who wants to beat him more than anyone else has. I’m here to give him his second loss on Saturday night.
“I can fight and I can adjust. I have speed just like Gary does. On Saturday, we’ll put our skills up against each other.
“Manny Pacquiao is my idol, ever since I was a kid. I started training at eight-years-old because of him to one day become world champion. Now that time is here. I’m so happy that Manny signed me to his promotional company and I’m grateful.
“I learned a lot from the Julio Ceja fight. I showed that I can adjust, that I can brawl and that I can box when I have to. That fight has helped me so much.
“It’s great to have Freddie Roach and Marvin Somodio helping me every day. I thought that I already knew boxing, but when I came to the gym they corrected my mistakes and made me a much more accurate puncher.
“Filipinos are born strong, we are warriors. I’m going to bring that attitude and that mentality into the fight.”
WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. will defend his world title and display his blistering hand speed against top contender and WBC mandatory challenger Mark Magsayo headlining action live on SHOWTIME Saturday, January 22 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.
The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® tripleheader begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and features a 12-round rematch between super lightweight contenders Subriel Matías and Petros Ananyan in the co-main event, plus hard-hitting featherweights Tugstsogt Nyambayar and Vic Pasillas squaring-off in the 10-round telecast opener.
The Capitol Heights, Md., native Russell (31-1, 18 KOs) has held his WBC Featherweight Title since 2015 when he stopped multiple division champion Jhonny Gonzalez to emphatically capture the belt. The 33-year-old is part of one of boxing’s premier fighting families as he is trained by his father Gary Sr., and stays sharp alongside his younger brothers, unbeaten super lightweight Gary Antuanne and undefeated bantamweight Gary Antonio. Russell owns victories over current featherweight titleholder Kiko Martinez via TKO in 2019 and a unanimous decision over former world champion Joseph Diaz Jr. in 2018. Most recently, Russell outpointed the previously unbeaten Tugstsogt Nyambayar on his way to his fifth title defense in February 2020.
“I’m ready and I’ve been waiting to display my talents and get back in the ring,” said Russell. “My opponent is one of Manny Pacquiao’s fighters, who is a legend in the sport and I’m pretty sure has a good eye for talent. I’m sure he signed Magsayo for a reason. I know that I’m facing a guy who’s willing to put it all on the line, with everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
The Filipino sensation Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) fights out of Pasig City, Metro Manila and most recently scored a career-best victory in August knocking out former champion Julio Ceja in the 10th round of a fight he trailed on the scorecards. The 26-year-old fights in the U.S. for the sixth time on January 22 as he steps into his first shot at championship gold. Magsayo is trained by Freddie Roach in Southern California and owns 12-round decision victories over Shoto Hayashi and Ramiro Robles, in addition to a sixth-round stoppage of former title challenger Chris Avalos.
“I am very grateful for this opportunity to fight on SHOWTIME for the WBC world title,” said Magsayo. “This is the fight that I want and have been working hard to get for years. I am going to come to win and to make the most of this chance. There is a reason Gary is a champion, just like there is a reason I became the mandatory challenger. This is going to be a great fight for me to show the world what Filipinos are made of. I’ve had a long road to get to this position and I will be fighting in honor of everyone who helped me get here.”
Matías (17-1, 17 KOs) will look to avenge his only career loss, which came by narrow decision to Ananyan in 2020, when he enters the ring on January 22. Fighting out of his native Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Matías has rebounded from the defeat to score back-to-back impressive victories on SHOWTIME. He stopped the previously unbeaten Malik Hawkins in October 2020 in the sixth round and forced the previously unbeaten Batyrzhan Jukembayev to quit after eight rounds in their May clash. Matías stopped his first 15 opponents inside of the distance and has still yet to go to a decision in a victory.
Nyambayar (12-2, 9 KOs) won a silver medal representing his native Mongolia in the 2012 Olympics and now lives in Southern California, where he’s trained by John Pullman. The 29-year-old ascended the featherweight rankings after his extensive amateur career with victories over then unbeaten Harmonito Dela Torre and former interim champion Oscar Escandon. He earned his first world title shot when he defeated former champion Claudio Marrero in January 2019, before dropping his championship bout against Russell on SHOWTIME. Nyambayar returns to the featherweight division after challenging top 130-pounder Chris Colbert in a July contest he lost by decision.