Mark Magsayo wins WBC title against one-armed Gary Russell Jr.

Mark Magsayo is the new WBC featherweight champion, but Gary Russell Jr. fought hurt and far less than 100 percent. What does he have left? 

The writing was on the wall before Gary Russell Jr. entered the ring against Mark Magsayo at the Borgata in Atlantic City on Jan. 22. Russell came into his featherweight title fight less than 100 percent, and it showed.

Russell’s six-year and 10-month reign as the WBC featherweight champion is over. Magsayo won a 12-round majority decision less than impressive fashion. It’s not so much that Magsayo won the fight as Russell lost it.

Magsayo had all the physical advantages headed into this bout. At 26 years old, he’s seven years younger than Russell and had the height and reach advantage. He was also healthy and in shape, while Russell wasn’t.

Days before the fight, Russell admitted on The DAZN Boxing Show  (h/t that he had a “slight injury.” He missed weight on his first attempt. Russell did make the 126-pound limit on his second try, but he didn’t look nearly as fit as he usually does.

Russell came into the ring against Magsayo, looking flat. His normally toned body looked less defined, and he was missing a step in the early rounds. Magsayo got off to a good start hitting Russell with numerous right uppercuts.

Gary Russell Jr. fought the majority of his title matchup with Mark Magsayo with one arm, which is why Magsayo is the new WBC featherweight champion

In round 4, Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) hit Russell’s right shoulder with a right hand that made Russell wince in pain. While in his corner after the round, the doctor inspected Russell’s shoulder, which was clearly damaged. The fight went on, and Russell fought with one arm for the remainder of the fight.

Surprisingly, Russell (31-2, 18 KOs) was able to stay in the contest using only his left hand and defense. His southpaw stance frustrated Magsayo, and he routinely evaded Magsayo’s attacks. Russell wasn’t able to dodge everything, but he was able to avoid any serious damage.

Still, Russell looked diminished beyond his injured shoulder. His reflexes weren’t as impressive as in the past, and he wasn’t able to mount much of an offense. Russell fought to survive, and he still made it close, relying solely on his boxing I.Q.

Russell’s skills were superior to Magsayo’s, but his body couldn’t carry him to a victory. The fight went the full 12 rounds, and the judges returned a majority decision for Magsayo, the new WBC featherweight champion.

Russell admitted after the fight that he injured his right shoulder two weeks before the match. He described it as an old tendon issue that flared up. He hadn’t fought for almost two years yet elected to fight Magsayo, which doesn’t make much sense.

The knock on Russell is his consistent inactivity. To end his layoff while injured makes no sense and should further perplex boxing fans. Magsayo is the new champion, but he left a lot to be desired in his performance.

The contest was a letdown that hurt both boxers to a degree, but Magsayo now has the hardware. How long he can keep it is the new question.

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