Ron Harris (Posted January 23, 2022)
Photo Credit: Amy Wescott
Atlantic City, NJ – Boxing is hard enough with two arms, but it is impossible with one arm. That is what World Boxing Council featherweight champion, Gary Russell, Jr tried to do when defending his title against the WBC number one contender, Mark Magsayo (24-0). Magsayo becomes the WBC champion with a majority decision over Russell. The judges scored the fight, 114-114, and 115-113, 115-113 in favor of Magsayo. Russell, making the 6th defense of his title, said he hurt his shoulder about two weeks ago. “I believe I have a torn tendon in my right shoulder. 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.”
Magsayo, from the Philippines, towered over the shorter Russell and looked more like a welterweight instead of a featherweight. In round 3 or 4, Magsayo hit Russell on or near the injured shoulder and made Russell buckle in pain. He stayed on his feet, but never used the right hand for the remainder of the fight. Russell is a southpaw, and he tried his best to win the fight with his power hand. Many experts at ringside had Russell winning rounds by staying away from the much taller Magsayo and landing his left flush on Magsayo’s face. Russell is not a hard puncher, and the new champion was never phased. Russell is known to have perhaps the fastest hands in the sport, but he was never able to land any two-hand combinations that he is famous for.
“Yes, I know that I hurt him in the third round. 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,” said Magsayo. “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 had not fought in close to 2 years. He said he wanted to fight, but several would be opponents backed away from fighting him. It is very hard to stay sharp for those many months with nobody firing real bullets at you. Russell trains his younger brothers, both undefeated, along with his father, Gary Russell, Sr. Russell, Sr has had some health challenges recently and the family is still mourning the lost of their youngest son.
The always confident, Russell was not down after suffering only his second defeat against 31 victories. “I gave him a boxing lesson. I gave him a boxing lesson the whole way through. I hit him clean whenever I wanted to. I couldn’t use my right arm, but I was still able to throw effective shots.”
It is hard to figure out which judges like ring movement and defense or if they like the more aggressive fighter. Magsayo was chasing Russell in every round. Gary ducked out of harms way all night long, but at least two judges ruled in favor of the more aggressive Magsayo. Thus, a new champion was crowned at the Borgata Casino and Spa in Atlantic City. The place was packed, which could mean the once proud boxing city of Atlantic City may be making a comeback.