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Magsayo captures WBC featherweight crown

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 23/01/2022 Niel Victor C. Masoy

Updated at 12:16 am

FILIPINO boxer Mark "Magnifico" Magsayo defeated defending champion American Gary Russell Jr. via majority decision to become the new World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight titlist.

The bout was held at the Borgata Event Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Sunday (Philippine time).

One judge scored, 114-114, while the other two each scored 115-113 in favor of Magsayo.

The fight ended Russell's nearly seven-year reign in the 126-pound class.

Magsayo remained unbeaten at 24-0 with 16 knockouts. Russell Jr. dropped to a 31-2 record with 18 knockouts.

"This is my dream. My dream came true. This has been my dream since I was a kid, since I was an amateur. I'm so proud that I'm a champion now. Thank you to my Filipino fans and the Filipinos here," said Magsayo in the post-fight interview.

The 26-year-old pride of Tagbilaran City, Bohol came out charging from the start and dictated the pace in the early rounds, landing solid punches including uppercuts and body shots.

Magsayo slowed down a little in the ensuing rounds, but kept up the attack, throwing a lot more punches than the 33-year-old Russell, who was clearly not in top shape after almost two years of inactivity.

He also hurt his right shoulder in the fourth round, leaving him vulnerable to Magsayo's assault.

Based on Compubox figures, Magsayo landed 150 of his 543 punches and Russell connected 69 of his 323. The American scored 11 of the 64 jabs he threw at Magsayo, who landed only 10 of his 203 jabs.

Magsayo was the clear winner in the power punching department, scoring 140 of his 340 punches. Russell connected only with 58 of his 259 punches.

"It was a little bit of an advantage for me because he was only using one hand and it was an opportunity for me to follow (catch) him. He couldn't jab me, he was only using one hand, that's why I hurt him a lot," Magsayo said.

Asked if he's willing to give Russell a rematch, Magsayo said it was up to his promoter Sean Gibbons, president of Manny Pacquiao Promotions, but added that he's willing to fight everybody.

Russell said he already knew he had an injured right shoulder two weeks before the fight, but pushed through with it because to him, "that's what warriors do." "I fight regardless of what the situation is. I refuse to not compete and display my skill set to the fans and the people that came out and show support. I felt like I still won this fight," he said.

"Hell yeah (I want a rematch). Will he want a rematch? That's the question," he said.

Malacañang hailed Magsayo's win.

"We are one with the Filipino people in celebrating the victory of Mark 'Magnifico' Magsayo when he dethroned Gary Russell Jr. to become the new WBC featherweight champion," Cabinet Secretary and acting Palace spokesman Karlo Alexei Nograles said in a statement.

"We thank Mark for giving pride and honor to the country and demonstrating to the world the courage, determination and perseverance of the Filipino boxer. Mabuhay ang new world champion! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!," he said.

WITH KRISTINA MARALIT

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