Mark Magsayo was a solid underdog and not given too big of a chance by many against Gary Russell Jr, but the Filipino kept his undefeated record and gained the WBC featherweight title, kicking off Showtime’s 2022 boxing schedule with an upset majority decision win.
Magsayo (24-0, 16 KO) won on scores of 114-114, 115-113, and 115-113. Bad Left Hook’s unofficial cards had it 115-113 Russell and 114-114, a tight — and unusual — fight that could have gone either way, probably.
Russell (31-2, 18 KO) said before the fight that he was dealing with a shoulder injury, and it definitely showed up after the first few rounds, leaving the 33-year-old American a one-handed fighter for the vast majority of the bout.
The southpaw Russell usually features a good jab and a sharp right hook, but his right hand was basically a non-factor in this fight. That said, Magsayo tactically didn’t take advantage nearly as much as he could have, as he kept moving to Russell’s left, leaving the defending titlist able to throw nicely-timed left hands, which he did land when he let them go.
Magsayo may not have done anything outstandingly special from an observer’s point of view, and may even have made some major mistakes that kept this fight closer than it might have been. But the limited Russell also didn’t do anything to take any great control of the bout, ultimately and truly leaving it up to the judges’ interpretation of the action, and two of them preferred what Magsayo did over 12 rounds.
As for the size of the upset, it wasn’t exactly Andy Ruiz Jr over Anthony Joshua or Mike Tyson being knocked out by Buster Douglas, but DraftKings Sportsbook did have Russell as a -360 favorite, with Magsayo a +275 underdog coming into the bout.
“This was my dream since I was a kid, and now I’m world champion!” Magsayo said after the fight. Asked about the shoulder injury, Magsayo said he felt it was a punch that made it worse. “It was a little bit of an advantage for me, with him using only one hand. That was an opportunity for me.”
Magsayo said it was up to his team whether there would be a rematch — as a mandatory fight, it’s not in the contract — but said he’s ready for anyone.
“I believe I have a torn tendon in my right shoulder,” Russell said. “I haven’t competed in almost two years. This is what true champions do. I wanted to display my superiority regardless of the injury. I did that. I gave him a boxing lesson. I landed clean whenever I wanted to. I still was able to touch him at will.”
Russell said he picked up the injury “about two weeks ago,” and said he “refused to not compete.”
“Please believe I will be back,” he said. “I still want these fights. I’m about to get my shoulder fixed and we will be back.”
Russell also said it was an “old injury” that goes back to 2008. He said he will request a rematch.
Russell had held the WBC title since beating Jhonny Gonzalez on March 28, 2015, and went on a long, routinely-criticized title reign, making just six title defenses — counting tonight’s fight — in just shy of seven years, fighting once per year from 2015-20, and then sitting out all of 2021 before his return against Magsayo.
Subriel Matias RTD-9 Petros Ananyan
A punishing revenge win for Matias (18-1, 18 KO), who pretty much dominated this fight despite the best efforts of the rugged Ananyan (16-3-2, 7 KO).
This one was stopped after the ninth round, as Ananyan had gone down hard on a left hook at the end of that round. The ringside physician took a careful, considered look, and made the call to advise referee Mary Glover to stop the fight, and it was the right call. Ananyan, 33, was clearly not in good shape, easily could have been stopped by Glover on the knockdown, and was way out of the fight with no reasonable path to victory at that point.
Matias, 29, has now won three straight, all by stoppage after a round ended, since his 2020 loss to Ananyan. He’s also now right in line for either an IBF final eliminator at 140 lbs against Jeremiah Ponce, or a vacant IBF title fight if Josh Taylor were to move up after his next bout on Feb. 26, assuming Taylor beats Jack Catterall as most expect he will.
“I wanted to avenge this loss,” Matias said after the fight through an interpreter. “I’m not really a hard hitter, but the way I fight is just chopping them down like a tree, just keep hitting them.”
While it may sound wild that a guy with 18 stoppages in 18 wins doesn’t consider himself a “hard hitter,” I think that’s actually really observant and honest of Matias about himself; he’s not really a one-punch guy, he’s got, say, 7/10 type power, but it’s all 7/10 power, and it’s constant. He beats opponents down, wears them out. And he’s a lot of fun to watch.
Tugstsogt Nyambayar D-10 Sakaria Lukas
A very disappointing result for Nyambayar on paper, even more for Lukas in reality, because a blown knockdown call in round eight would have made the difference in his favor.
Judges had once 96-94 score for each man, and then a 95-95 even card to make it a split draw. Lukas, who came in on short notice and flew 27 hours to get here for the fight, landed a left hand on Nyambayar that should have been scored a knockdown. It was obvious on replay, though to be fair to referee Eddie Claudio, tough to see in real time and he was out of position to see it, which happens.
For what it’s worth, Bad Left Hook had it 95-95 and 96-94 Lukas on our two unofficial cards.
When Claudio was shown multiple replays in a post-fight interview with Jim Gray, he continued to “not see” the punch anyone could see landed, insisting it was Nyambayar’s “body language” from a missed punch that caused him to fall down, completely missing the left hand from Lukas that did land. Now, to be further fair, I don’t know how clear or big the monitor Claudio had to look at was, either, or what replay he was seeing, or if it at all matched what we saw in various angles on the Showtime broadcast. and he may admit he missed it in the coming days. Or not. And again, it does happen, and in real time wasn’t an easy call.
And on that note I’ll add this from our own John Hansen, from our live discussion:
“Basically, there’s a monitor, maybe slightly larger than a laptop screen, on a telescoping pole that someone carries into the ring for the ringside production coordinator to see and cue people for in-ring post fight stuff.
“That’s the same thing they use to show live replays for “tell me what happened when...” analysis from fighters. And those monitors are usually used in other situations with little hoods to help with glare issues. The sort of glare issues that come from production lighting, like what you’re seeing shined on the ring.
“So, he’s seeing a relatively small screen, on a stick, without a hood, under extremely bright lights. It is very possible he actually can’t really see very well what we think he should see in a replay. ... I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes the guy holding the monitor stand flat out sucks at it, and doesn’t realize they’re screwing over the people trying to watch it in the ring because of placement or angles.”
But it’s a rough, rough outcome for Lukas (25-1-1, 17 KO), even though coming in this would be a great result for the 37-year-old Namibian, as Nyambayar (12-2-1, 9 KO) was a heavy favorite.
We also may have to start admitting that the 29-year-old Nyambayar’s “inconsistency” is in fact very consistent, and at this point something you can rely on fight-to-fight. He’s 1-2-1 in his last four, and even the win in there over Cobia Breedy was a tougher fight for him than expected, a closer bout on the cards. He’s a good fighter, but is pretty clearly missing that next level gear.