Mark Magsayo stops longest title reign in pro boxing with win over Gary Russell Jr. | Inquirer Sports
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Mark Magsayo stops longest title reign in pro boxing with win over Gary Russell Jr.

/ 05:00 AM January 24, 2022

Mark Magsayo (right) drills Gary Russell Jr. with a right to the face in their World Boxing Council featherweight championship bout which the Filipino won on points. —PHOTOS BY AFP

Mark Magsayo fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a world boxing champion on Sunday and was promptly welcomed into an exclusive company by the man who is hands down the greatest Filipino pug of all time.

“Welcome to the club,” Manny Pacquiao, the eight-division world champ who is now seeking the Philippine presidency, tweeted after Magsayo outpointed beloved American champion Gary Russell Jr. for the World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight that also snapped the longest championship reign in professional boxing.

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“This is my dream,” said Magsayo after his majority decision win at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City. “My dream did come true. I’m so proud I’m a champion now. Thank you to my supporters. To all the Filipino fans. Filipinos here. Thank you so much.”

Not everyone inside the venue—or those watching the livestream—was pleased, though, at how he performed against Russell, whose right shoulder injury reduced him to a one-arm warrior in the fourth round.

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Judges Mark Consentino and Henry Grant saw it, 115-113, while Lynne Carter saw it as a draw, 114-114.

Russell, who hasn’t fought in almost two years but held the belt for a total of six years, failed to throw a single jab after hurting his right shoulder in the fourth round, throwing lefts in an effort to fend off the heavy hands of Magsayo.

Magsayo naturally landed more punches according to CompuBox, hitting his mark 150 out of 453 times as against the 69-of-323 of the debilitated champion.

But the 26-year-old Filipino had a hard time tracking Russell down because after an explosive start, Magsayo dipped in energy the way he has done in the past. He also failed to work out of Russell’s vulnerable right side, revealing flaws in his ring decision-making.

It may not bode well for the hard-hitting Filipino if and when he takes on the big boys in the division, mainly Mexican champs Leo Santa Cruz (World Boxing Association or WBA super) and Emmanuel Navarette (World Boxing Organization or WBO), International Boxing Federation (IBF) title holder Kiko Martinez of Spain and Leigh Wood of United Kingdom (WBA regular).

‘I hurt him’

Despite packing a KO punch that he used to escape against Julio Ceja last August, Magsayo’s performance against an injured Russell might not exactly attract future big-money fights.

But Magsayo feels he did more than enough to win.

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“I hit him with some good shots in the third round and that is why he got hurt,” said Magsayo. “I got him hurt a lot.”

The 33-year-old Russell said his right shoulder tendon began acting up two weeks before wrapping up his training. It was an old injury that he said bothered him on and off since the 2008 Olympics.

It was just one of the baggage he carried into the fight after he missed the 125-pound limit on his first try during the official weigh-in. It harked back to when he didn’t make the weight cut during the 2008 Beijing Games.

Mark Magsayo poses for a picture after defeating Gary Russell Jr. to win the WBC World Featherweight Championship at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa on January 23, 2022 in Atlantic City, United States. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images/AFP

“I’m a true champion, this is what warriors do, I fight regardless what the situation is,” said Russell after the fight. “I refuse to not compete.”

Russell’s father-trainer and namesake worked his corner from a wheelchair after getting his leg amputated last month as a result of diabetes complication. He asked for a rematch right away although there wasn’t a rematch clause signed.

“People here, please believe me. I will be back. I still wanna fight, get my shoulder fixed and go back at it,” said Russell Jr.

But Magsayo didn’t directly address the challenge and instead said: “It’s up to my promotions. But am willing to fight anybody now. I’m the champion now.”

Pacquiao, whose MP Promotions handles Magsayo and another Filipino champ, Jerwin Ancajas, said: “Congratulations on your first world championship. Thank you for bringing honor to our country by becoming the latest Filipino boxing champion.”

Magsayo joined the roster of champions in stablemate Jerwin Ancajas (IBF junior bantamweight), Nonito Donaire (WBC bantamweight), Johnriel Casimero (WBO bantamweight) and Rene Cuarto (IBF minimum weight). INQ

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