Extra Points: Magsayo upsets Russell in boxing’s return to A.C.
ATLANTIC CITY - For the first time in seven years, there is a new World Boxing Council featherweight champion.
Mark Magsayo ended Gary Russell Jr.'s lengthy reign by earning a 12-round, majority decision at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa.
"This is my dream," Magsayo said while the crowd roared. "It's a dream come true."
Judges Mark Consentino and Henry Grant both had Magsayo winning 115-113. Judge Lynn Carter scored it 114-114 draw, as did 973ESPN.com.
Russell (31-2, 18 KOs), from Capitol Heights, Maryland, had held the WBC's 126-pound belt since 2015. He fought Saturday with a shoulder injury that he said he suffered two weeks ago, but refused to postpone the bout.
"That's what true champions do," Russell said. "That's what warriors do. I was going to step into the ring regardless of injury."
Russell's right arm dangled at his side for most of the bout. He relied on timely straight lefts, defense and savvy ring generalship to frustrate Magsayo.
Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs), from the Philippines, countered with an aggressive style, forcing Russell into the ropes and then unloading combinations while Russell ducked, pivoted and danced out of danger.
"I still think I won the fight, to be honest with you," Russell said. "I gave him a boxing lesson."
The shoulder injury was the latest setback in a challenging period for Russell.
He entered the fight as boxing's longest-reigning champion, but various issues in and out of the ring had limited his inactivity.
Saturday's bout was just his sixth title defense in the seven-year span.
In the last 13 months, his younger brother Gary Derreke Russell passed away in December of 2020 from a heart attack at age 26. His father and lifelong trainer, Gary Russell Sr., 62, had his left foot amputated last month due to complications from Diabetes.
"I was not going to postpone this fight," he said. "True champions step into the ring."
Fans filled Borgata's Event Center for the bout, which was the first boxing match held at Borgata in 15 years. It also signaled the return of big-time boxing to Atlantic City after a two-year hiatus. Russell-Magsayo was the first world title bout held in town since Claressa Shields won the women's WBC and World Boxing Organization welterweight belts by beating Ivana Habazin at Ocean Casino Resort on January 10, 2020. The last time a men's championship fight took place in Atlantic City was November 24, 2018, when World Boxing Association light-heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol beat Jean Pascal at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Among the fans at Borgata was Galloway Township resident Roy Foreman. Forty-nine years earlier he was at another, much more signifcant bout. Foreman, now 66, was in Kingston, Jamaica on Jan. 22, 1973, when older brother George Foreman won the heavyweight title with a second-round TKO over Joe Frazier.
"I was a senior in high school (in Houston) at the time and I almost didn't get to go," Roy said. "My mother (Nancy) didn't want me to miss any school, but the principal agreed to let me go, so my mother bought me a ticket.
"George didn't know I was coming, so when I got to the airport in Jamaica there was no one to pick me up. Joe Frazier was there to pick up some of his family members and when he saw me there by myself, he said, "C'mon, get in the car' and gave me a ride to the hotel. Joe and I became good friends after that, even after George beat him twice."
Russell-Magsayo was part of a tripleheader televised by Showtime Championship Boxing. In the first fight, Namibia's Sakaria Lukas (25-1-1, 17 KOs) and Mongolia's Tustsogt Nyambayar (12-2-1, 9 KOs) fought to a controversial, 10-round draw. After the fight, Showtime announcer Jim Gray grilled referee Eddie Claudio for ruling an obvious knockdown by Lukas as a slip. Gray forced Claudio to watch the replay four or five times in the ring while the boos grew louder. To his credit, Claudio stuck to his original, "real time" ruling, even though it was wrong.
"What I saw in real time, he fell down not from the impact of the blow but from his body language, he just slipped, Claudio told Gray. "His feet went and he slipped."
In the co-feature, Puerto Rican super-lightweight Subriel Matias (18-1, 18 KOs) avenged his only defeat with a ninth-round TKO over Armenia's Petros Ananyan (16-3-2, 7 KOs). Matias dropped Ananyan with a vicious left hook just before the bell. Ananyan beat referee Mary Glover's 10-count, but ringside physician Dr. Nina Radcliff from Atlantic City wisely stopped the bout before the 10th.
PUNCHLINES: On the undercard, Atlanta super-welterweight Evan Holyfield (9-0, 6 KOs) gained a six-round, unanimous decision over Chris Rollins (5-4-1, 4 KOs), of Charlottesville, Virginia. Holyfield is the son of former heavyweight champion and Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame member Evander Holyfield. Puerto Rican super-bantamweight Abimael Ortiz (10-1-1, 5 KOs) took a six-round, unanimous decision over Ryan Allen (10-6-1, 5 KOs), of Jackson, Michigan. Japanese featherweight Katsuma Akitsugi (8-0, 1 KO) earned a six-round, uanimous decision over Philadelphia's Rasheen Brown (11-1, 7 KOs) in a battle of unbeatens. Washington welterweight Max Garland (1-0, 1 KO) began his pro career with a second-round TKO over Marik Black (1-1-1, 1 KO), of Versailles, Kentucky in the opening bout.