While UFC 270 was happening, boxing’s first new champion of 2022 was crowned in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Undefeated Filipino featherweight and Manny Pacquiao protege Mark Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) became the new WBC champion with a majority decision win over Gary Russell Jr (31-2, 18 KOs). Russell Jr was boxing’s longest reigning champion in terms of number of years. Russell Jr, of course, has repeatedly only fought once a year since he won the WBC belt in 2015. His number of actual defenses was just five fights, but you get the idea by now.
Russell Jr came into his mandatory title defense vs. Magsayo with a shoulder injury, which he’d revealed pre-fight, and that shoulder proved problematic mid-fight. And yet even with one functioning arm this fight was tightly contested, but Magsayo did enough offensively to pull off the upset.
Watch the highlights at the top of the page.
In addition to the injury, Russell had been dealing with personal trauma after the recent death of his brother ‘Boosa’ and the ongoing health problems of his dad and cornerman Gary Russell Sr. This was no doubt a difficult fight camp for him on multiple fronts, but he made it into the ring and gave it all he had, only for Magsayo to prevail on the night.
Russell wants a rematch after he has surgery on his shoulder, but since this was a mandatory defense there is no rematch clause. That’ll be up to Team Magsayo as far as whether they’ll pursue it.
This is a monumental win for Magsayo, who became the WBC’s #1 contender with a dramatic KO of Julio Ceja last August. At just 26 years old he’s ascended to champion status, and after an upset-laden 2021 for boxing, 2022 starts off the same way.
After the fight, Pacquiao offered up a congratulatory tweet to Magsayo after his major accomplishment.