Almost two years out of the ring.
An injury to be detailed at a later date.
Failure to make weight on the first attempt.
For those who believe in signs, none of them look good for defending WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. Across the ring on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 PM EST), Russell will find a younger, hungry challenger with three appearances and 24 rounds logged since the last time Russell stepped in the ring.
While Russell marks a considerable jump in level of competition for challenger Mark Magsayo, Magsayo showed real fire in his last outing. Matched with a still dangerous Julio Ceja, Magsayo came off the floor to score a knockout in a gritty encounter. Magsayo showed championship character.
Will he have enough championship talent to upset Russell?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Gary Russell Jr.
Title: WBC featherweight (2015-Present, 5 defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’4 ½
Weight: 125 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Capitol Heights, Maryland
Record: 31-1, 18 KO
Record in Title Fights: 6-1, 4 KO
Last Five Opponents: 132-11-2 (.917)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Jhonny Gonzalez TKO4; Joseph Diaz UD12; Tugstsogt Nyambayar UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Mauricio Pastrana TKO1; Vasyl Lomachenko L12; Kiko Martinez TKO5
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 125 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Rizal, Metro Manila, Philippines
Record: 23-0, 16 KO
Press Rankings: #4 (Ring), #10 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Title Opportunity
Last Five Opponents: 129-19-3 (.864)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: None
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Pungluang Sor Singyu UD12; Julio Ceja KO10
The Pick: Magsayo has a lot going for him here. He’s got heavy hands, mixes up his offense to the head and body well, and has picked up valuable experience against better opponents in the last couple years. None of those opponents are Russell and if Julio Ceja could find Magsayo what can Russell do? Even with inactivity and a possible injury, if we assume Russell is still generally the same fighter he was when last in the ring, Magsayo is going to eat a lot of counters. If Magsayo can get to the body and work the long game, he may have a shot but the thinking here is Russell will be first too often, and gone before Magsayo can follow up. Russell is the pick by decision.
Rold Picks 2022: 2-0
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org