Just moments ago we saw a new WBC Featherweight champion being crowned as Filipino Mark Magsayo (24-1, 16) lost the title in his first defense, losing a split decision to unbeaten Mexican Rey Vargas (36-0, 22), who becomes a 2-weight champion.
On paper the bout had the potential to be something really ugly, given that Vargas has a reputation for making stinking bouts and Magsayo being very hot and cold. Thankfully however we ended up with a genuinely solid, exciting, entertaining bout that had a bit of everything, including drama late on, a high tempo early on, and some really good back and forth action.
The first two rounds were really close as both men started well, and fought each other tit for tat whilst finding their groove. We felt Magsayo did the better work in round 1, but that Vargas seemed to find his groove in round 2, as he started to establish control of range, and land clean, hard shots to Magsayo.
Through the middle portion of the bout Vargas took control of the action, seeming dominating from round 3, as he made Magsayo look very flawed. Vargas regularly stood his ground, landing clean, heavy shots, he was busier than Magsayo, he was more accurate and whilst it seemed his shots didn't have nasty power on them they certainly appeared to take a toll on Magsayo who was clearly slowing down in rounds 5 and 6, a result of the sweeping body shots of Vargas. Magsayo wasn't just taking shot, he was also being made to miss with his own, looking really raw and crude at times.
The one thing Magsayo had going for him was his power, and he certainly showed that in round 8. He was out landed again, but did manage to land a really good right hand late in the round. The shot was essentially a warning of what was to come in round 9, when a huge right late in the round dropped Vargas. It was a huge moment in the fight, the biggest in fact. He beat the count but looked buzzed for the rest of the round. He appeared appeared to be hurt in round 10, though Magsayo foolishly didn't press the issue, instead giving Vargas the space and time he needed to clear his head and get his feet underneath himself.
Magsayo's failure to jump on Vargas was a huge mistake and by round 11 Vargas had recovered his legs, which proved vital as he re-established control in the final 2 rounds. Those were key for him in the eyes of the judges, as they decided that he had done enough to edge the decision, with scores of 115-112, twice, in his favour against a dissenting card of 114-113, in favour of Magsayo.
The first world title fight to feature an Asian fighter in 2022 saw a notable upset in what was a bout that left us scratching our heads rather than being really impressed by either man. That was despite the fact the bout featured one of the best natural talented from the USA taking on one of the best natural talents of the Philippines.
The bout in question saw unbeaten Filipino Mark Magsayo (24-0, 16) score a major upset over long reigning WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr (31-2, 18) , in a bout that was confusing, confounding and one that really, hopefully, isn't a sign of what 2022 will bring.
Early on Magsayo started really, really well. He used his speed, size, and youth really effectively to out boxing, out fight and out-speed the lightning quick Russell Jr. It was the perfect start for the Filipino who looked the boss, and looked like he was going to put on a career defining performance. Sadly though he is Mark Magsayo, a sensationally talented fighter who seems to be his own worse enemy at times. After making Russell Jr look second best through the first 3 rounds, he then seemed confused when Russell Jr changed tactics.
In round 4 Magsayo started well, and even seemed to hurt Russell Jr early in the round, before allowing Russell Jr to create space and distance, which Magsayo happy walked into. It was a round that Magsayo won, but set the stage for what was going to happen through the middle of the fight.
The middle rounds saw the Filipino trudge forward, not throwing nearly enough, being made to miss, and then being pot-shotted by Russell Jr who's jab completely vanished in round 5, and instead he become a totally 1-handed fighter, landing little more then straight left hands. Those straight left hands were limited in number, but landed at a high accuracy level, whilst Magsayo came forward with limit success.
The limited effective pressure work from Magsayo, and clean accuracy from Russell Jr allowed Russell to fight his way back in to the bout, despite fighting with 1 hand, and despite not doing a lot himself. He was just defensive smart and offensively opportunistic against a challenger who has often lost himself in the middle of fights, something he did again here.
Thankfully for Magsayo it seemed somebody, likely trainer Freddie Roach, managed to light a rocket under his ass as we went into the final rounds, and Magsayo was a lot more offensively minded, with an increased output in rounds 10 and 11. Something he needed big time to re-establish his lead. Surprisingly however he failed to keep up the same intensity in the 12th round, allowing, once again, for Russell Jr to do what he could to essentially steal a round and make the cards very close.
After 12 rounds it seemed almost impossible to make a case that Russell could have won, but it seemed like a legitimate argument could have been made, on the basis of round by round scoring, for the bout to have been very close. Magsayo had won his rounds clearly. He had won them dominantly, especially early on, but Russell Jr had fiddled his way through enough rounds to make things tight.
That tightness showed on the cards, which were 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113, giving Magsayo a majority decision.
Given the Gary Russell Jr that Magsayo fought the result was performance was horribly under-whelming, but will be covered up by the result. It was another poor performance from Magsayo, where he has just managed to get over the line, and we do worry this reign is not going to be a long one for the Filipino unless he sorts out the mental side of things.
As for Russell Jr, it's hard to have sympathy for someone with his talented, but no real drive to be a star. His was his first bout in almost 2 years, and now at the age of 33 he could well find himself in the "who needs him club?" especially after this performance the fact he seemed to come in to the bout with an injury.
The bout promised a lot, delivered a surprise, but will not be well remembered at the end of the year.
After more than 20 months out of the ring, and with numerous fights falling through during that time, we were all curious as to what we'd see from exciting Chinese fighter Can Xu (18-3, 3) [徐灿] this evening as he looked to defend the WBA Featherweight title against Englishman Leigh Wood (25-2, 15).
Sadly what we saw was a shadow, of a shadow of a fighter. This was a man who looked completely unrecognisable to the man who announced himself to the world in January 2019, when he beat Jesus M Rojas. In fact what we saw was a man who looked not just out of sorts, but almost as if he was out of love with the sport all together and it looked like the stop start nature of the last 20 months had really taken everything away from him.
Xu, who is known for his high output, incredible work rate, and wildly entertaining fights, was subdued from the off. Part of that was ring rust though part of it, a very good part, was the tactics of Leigh Wood, and trainer Ben Davison, who used subtle movements to make Xu regularly reset. In the past Xu has had no problem resetting but here he seemed completely unable to get his feet into gear, whilst Wood picked him off with good single shots from mid-range. Wood really was just doing basic things, very well, and Xu couldn't do anything. In fact Xu looked like a man wanting to be the human heavy bag in the early rounds,
As the rounds went on the work rate from both increased, and Xu did manage to have some moments, notably landing some solid body shots and he had a solid round 5, but for the most part the action was dominated by the simple, clean, effective boxing from Wood, who appeared to be boxing against a man who had lost everything that had made him a world champion.
After round 5 Xu really didn't build on his success, instead Wood had one of his best rounds in round 6, taking the play away from Xu almost immediately. Xu tried to get back some momentum in round 7, but failed, despite landing some solid right hands late in the round. He was pressuring, but it was ineffective, and really just made life easy for Wood, who had an opponent coming to him, and chances to land some eye catching uppercuts, which had been his best shots in the early part of the fight.
In round 8, for the first time, it seemed like Wood felt he could stop Xu, and he seemed to buzz the champion for the first time, though seemed to gas himself as he went for a finish. One again a bad round for one man, in round 8's case Xu, was followed by him bouncing back and round 9 was a genuinely fatastic round to watch, with both men hhacing some great back and forth before we finally, saw glimpses of the real Xu. Round 10, or at least the first 2 minutes of it, was pretty much the only time we saw anything resembling the Xu of 2019. He was busy, he was aggressive, he was letting shots go and looking like the perpetual punching machine that had won us all over against Rojas. Sadly though it was just a 2 minute burst from him and following that Wood picked up his tempo later in the round, landing good body shots began to take the fight out of Xu.
In round 11 Wood began to play with his man, and there was nothing much landing from Xu, barring a late right hand that connected clean on Wood's chin. It was a brief success, that came too late for him to build on.
In round, as both looked to exchange, a big right hand from Wood dropped Xu. Xu got to his feet but was spent, a broken fighter, and Wood knew it, jumping on him until the referee stepped in.
For Wood this is a massive win. A career changing win. The win that puts him on the map and a win that opens the doors to some huge fights for him going forward.
As for Xu, it's hard to know where he goes from here. On the back of such a poor performance, we really need to wonder if he over-trained, lost focus, was too rusty and needed an easy win before a title defense or to needs move up in weight. This was not the Xu of the past.
Back in June 1999 Lakva Sim became the first Mongolian world champion, stopping popular Japanese fighter Takanori Hatakeyama in Tokyo to claim the WBA Super Featherweight title. Today his compatriot Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9) attempted to become the second Mongolian to claim a world title as he took on talented American speedster Gary Russell Jr (31-1, 18) for the WBC Featherweight title.
Sadly it wasn't to be for Nayambayar, who came up short against Russell Jr, but proved he belonged at world level, and may have just lacked a little bit of experience coming into this.
The Mongolian started slowly. He applied pressure from the bell, but it was more pressure based on movement, and pressing, rather than letting his hands go and pressuring with output. It allowed the much quicker Russell Jr to get his shots off and get out of range. The jab of Russell Jr, along with his handspeed, kept Nyambayar at a safe range and allowed the first 4 rounds were easy ones to score for the American champion. The pressure was there from Nyambayar but he was struggling to get close enough to make it pay off.
From round 5 Nyambayar finally began to have real success, as he started to let his hands go, at last. The change in output from the Mongolian saw him finally show what he could do, and his pressure finally began to pay off, helped in part by Russell Jr showing more willingness to exchange. The same sort of thing happened in round, though it was very much a case of things only being competitive when Russell allowed them to be. That was similar in round 7, as Russell Jr again took with his movement, and neutralised Nyambayar for the most part.
Despite successes from Nyambayar he was still down, and still struggling to win rounds. That was clear in round 8, which was competitive but one that Russell Jr did more than enough in.
With around 6 rounds, from the first 8, in the bag for Russell Jr he seemed to become more willing to have a fight, and rounds 9 and 10 was fantastic rounds, of high skilled aggressive action. Both were playing high level chess, and both aggressive with it, trying to earn the respect of the other man. For Russell Jr the main shots were up top, with sensational combinations, straight left hands down the middle and real eye catching stuff. For Nyambayar there was some hard shots up top but the key to his work was some big body shots, as he looked to try grind down the much quicker champion.
The action continued to excite in round 11, though it was one where the eye catching work seemed to be the flashy combinations of Russell Jr, in what was a really enjoyable round. At the very worst this round essentially secured Russell Jr a decision. At very worst for him it was his 7th round of the bout.
Knowing he had to go all out in the final 3 minutes Nyambayar started round 12 fast, and dominated the early parts of it, letting combinations go, something he really needed to do in the first half of the bout. Until the round went into a bit of a dull lull in the later stages. It was a Nyambayar round, but it was never going to be enough for the Mongolian, who went into the round needing a knock out.
After 12 rounds we went to the judges, and it seemed that Nyambayar was probably going to need a knockout to get a draw, with cards of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112 in favour of Russell Jr. Sadly those scores didn't reflect the competitive nature of the bout, over all, and it was close.
Nyambayar's big issue was his super slow start. He had given away 4 rounds, before he really got going. He did really well in the final 8, but not well enough to win. He certainly deserved better than a 118-110 score against him, but a 116-112 card was fairly accurate.
Despite the loss we suspect Nyambayar will learn from this fight and bounce back better. He was competitive with Russell Jr, despite the very slow start. He showed he belonged at this level, and we suspect he'll go on to win a world title in the coming years, eventually giving Mongolia their second world champion. Today however wasn't Mongolia's day.
Earlier this year Chinese fighter Can Xu (18-2, 3) [徐灿] put himself on the map as he won the WBA "regular" Featherweight title in a sensational performance against Jesus M Rojas on US soil. Today he returned to the US to make his second defense, and again put on a sensational performance with an incredibly high work rate and very smart inside fighting.
The talented champion was defending his title for the second time, as he faced off with the previously unbeaten Manny Robles III (18-1, 8), and just swamped Robles with a tempo that that Robles had no answer for.
It only took seconds for Xu to begin letting his hands go, and he never slowed down. Robles tried to box between Xu's flurries in the first few rounds, but he never did enough to be competitive with Xu who was always landing first, landing last and landing more.
Sadly for Robles the tempo was too high for him, and body shots in round 6 began to hurt him, taking away from his work rate even further. What little success Robles had mustered in the first half were completely non existent in the second half, with Robles taking a beating in rounds 7 and 8, as he slowly had the fight beaten out of him. The only things that let the bout continue were Robles' toughness and Xu's lack of power.
Robles tried to push forward late on but all he did was walk into uppercuts and hooks as Xu continued to beat him up through the championship rounds, putting any possible doubt to bed.
After 12 rounds the scores were tallied quickly, and were easy to tally. 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 all to Xu.
Following the bout DAZN show punch numbers suggesting there was over 2000 punches thrown, with Xu throwing over 1500! An incredibly amount, in what was a truly fan friendly and entertaining, yet 1-sided, battle.
After the bout Xu called out IBF champion Josh Warrington in what would make for a chaotic and fan friendly bout with a lot of leather being thrown, but one we don't imagine Warrington and his promoter, Frank Warren, will be in a rush to make. Instead we assume that Xu will likely make a mandatory against Hiroshige Osawa sooner, rather than later, in what could well be a bout back in China, before another big bout Stateside.
Earlier this year we saw Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) [徐灿] shock a large portion of the boxing world by defeating Jesus M Rojas in the US to claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. Today he made the first defense of that belt, taking on Japanese challenger Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) [久保隼].
On paper this didn't really promise a lot but actually delivered a really, really fan friendly battle, at a high tempo, fought at mid to close range and had some eye catching back and forths, before the champion broke down the challenger and forced the referee to stop the contest. It was not a fight of the year contender, but still a very, very enjoyable contest to watch.
The first round was a solid one for Kubo, who managed to use his southpaw jab and long arms to control the range pretty well, taking advantage of Xu being a relatively slow starter. Sadly for Kubo, who was picking some really classy shots, he was totally unable to get Xu's respect. That meant Xu could gradually pick up his pace, and like a steam trainer he build up some real momentum.
Round 2 and 3 were still somewhat competitive, with Kubo standing his ground and having some success, but it was coming at a cost with Xu landing more and more shots per round.
It was in round 4 that it was becoming clear Kubo was feeling the pace and being broken down. He was starting to break away from the action more often, trying to create space to catch his breath and not staying on the inside. He was also struggling to avoid the fire of Xu, who was increasing his output round by round, and landing more and more clean shots.
The problems Kubo was having with the volume of Xu got worse in round 5, and he was dropped towards the end of the round, after being badly hurt and eating some solid combinations. It was a testament to Kubo that he fought back as hard as he did, but it was clear he was being broken down, and as we heard the bell he was staggered again.
By now the referee and Kubo's corner were keeping an eye on the challenger and was he was rocked again in round 6 the referee, Gustavo Padilla, stepped in and halted the bout.
Interestingly this was Xu's third stoppage in 5 bouts, and whilst no one would call him a puncher he is certainly hitting hard than his record would suggest. Sadly for Kubo this is his second stoppage loss, and it's really hard to see where he goes from this. Domestically and regionally the Featherweight division is a mine field and it's really, really hard to imagine him making a mark on the sport at 126lbs given how he was broken down here.
Every so often a supposed mismatch ends up being less of a mismatch than expected, in fact instead of a mismatch we get a Fight of the Year contender as the perceived under-dog fights as if their career depends on their performance.
That was the case tonight when Chinese fighter Can Xu (16-2, 2) [徐灿] played his part in a bout with Jesus M Rojas (26-3-2-1, 19), for the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The bout was a thrilling, pulsating and action packed 12 round war from two men who's style gelled perfectly.
Rojas was expected to win with ease. Most had predicted him to walk through Xu, score an easy early victory and defend his title without any issues. It seemed Rojas also expected that as he put intense pressure on Xu from the open bell. Xu backed off, but unloaded combinations when there space to work with, whilst Rojas worked hard on the inside, trying to make the fight a war.
As the rounds went on Xu's confidence grew and Rojas became less and less intense. The first 5 rounds were insane, all action, incredible intensity. The 4th may well go down as one of the best rounds of the year. But from then on the pace slowed, Rojas seemed to be the one feeling the tempo, and round 6 was a fantastic one for Xu who seemed to begin backing Rojas up.
Xu would go on to back Rojas up again in rounds 7 and 8 as the tempo really seemed to effect Rojas, who was only able to keep a high intensity for a minute or so in a round, rather than the 3 minutes he was pressing in earlier rounds.
Those rounds going to the Chinese fighter made things very interesting, though Rojas did do much better in round 9 as he stopped the rot. That a momentary respite for the Puerto Rican champion as Xu charged again in the final 3 rounds, again pressing, forcing Rojas back and stopping the champion from getting his breath.
Through the 12 rounds there was clear momentum shifts, Rojas easily the dominant fighter in the early stages, Xu in charge in the later rounds. The amount of leather both threw was insane, and it seemed an incredibly close fight as we went to the judges.
The first score read was 118-110, a score that didn't reflect the fight, the second was 117-111, and that didn't reflect the fight, and the third was 116-112. The third card was arguably, at best. Surprisingly however they all went for Xu, who scored a major upset here with a unanimous decision.
Rojas should feel aggrieved by the scores. It was a close fight, it could have gone either way, but it was not a 9-3 or 10-2 type of fight.
For Chinese boxing history was made, with Xu being the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight, even if it is only the "regular" title, and we suspect he will be returning to China to fight in front of a huge audience in his first defense. A rematch with Rojas would be very welcome, we suspect it'll be a much easier bout than that for the new champion!
A busy morning of action in Kuala Lumpur featured a number of title fights. The third of those was a WBA “interim” Featherweight title bout, as Filipino Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17) faced Mexican foe Edivaldo Ortega (26-2-1, 12). On paper this looked liked the potential show stealing, with both men being well matched on paper, both looking to make a statement on the global boxing scene and both looking to claim their first “world” title. Sadly for a bout that promised so much it did seem to fail to really reach the heights expected of it.
The first round was genuinely brilliant as Tepora seemed to try and make an immediate statement, chasing down Ortega and trying to stop him early on. Ortega managed to fire back and we got the opening round that we all expected, with both men unloading big shots. The second was quite similar, though Ortega managed to show more of his boxing and seemed to have a stronger second round as he landed more of his harder shots.
With Ortega using his boxing the action slowed. There were still moments, especially towards the end of rounds, but the fireworks seemed to slowly vanish as both men dropped their output and what action we did have became more and more sloppy.
There were certainly some good moments, and it was really close and competitive, but it seemed somewhat lacking in drama due to the pace and tempo slowing as much as it did. The slowdown in part was due to Tepora boxing really well off the back foot whilst Ortega had tasted the power and didn't feel like letting Tepora land hurtful counters. It was an understandable move from Ortega, to avoid the power, but did feel like Tepora could have done more.
Thankfully we did get drama in round 9 as Tepora's power showed it's self. The Filipino began to hold his feet more early in the round and Ortega seemed to see that as a chance to let his shots go. This finally gave us a return to the fireworks we had been waiting for since round 2. Ortega however ate a huge right uppercut that dropped him hard. The Mexican, with a badly swollen eye, returned to his feet, but looked like he was there for the taking and Tepora chased him before unloading power shots. The referee gave Ortega a chance to respond but after a number of clear shots waved off the bout.
For fans of Tepora the performance may not be memorable but he got the stoppage and claimed a career defining victory for the WBA interim Featherweight title, a win that will clearly put him on the boxing map. It comes just days after Vic Saludar claimed the WBO Minimumweight title and has put some momentum into Filipino boxing going forward.
As for Ortega this will be a hard loss to bounce back from and he really did get smashed by the power of Tepora in the 9th round.
In boxing the winner is usually the fighter who takes the plaudits, and rewards, however every so often a loser can be a winner, and that was seen last night when Filipino Genesis Servania (29-1, 12) came up short in when he challenged WBO Featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (23-0, 19), but enhanced his reputation in such a way that he went from relative unknown to a man who pushed one of the top young champions in sport, all the way.
The Filipino started slowly, pressing behind a tight guard and trying to counter Valdez. At the early stages it wasn't a great tactic for Servania, but it was a foundation for his performance as he managed to settle into the fight well. Although reserved early on Servania had moments when he threw to get Valdez's respect, and showed that he could take the much vaunted power of the Mexican.
In round 4the fight came alive as Servania surprisingly dropped Valdez, who was up quickly but had clearly found a new respect for the challenger. Valdez was then hurt again before the round was over, with Servania showing his power and his ability to hurt Valdez. Unfortunately for Servania he was dropped himself the following round, and was shakey as Valdez looked to finish the bout. The recovery of the Filipino was impressive and he ended the round throwing bombs back, despite clearly losing the round.
Rounds 6 and 7 saw Valdez fight well for the most part, but late charges by Servania in both rounds made things very interesting as it was the challenger who left the last memory, despite the more prolonged success from Valdez.
With the action heating up and both having scored knockdowns it fight like the fight still had a drama in it, and Valdez was the one seeking the finish, letting loose with significantly more shots in the middle rounds than the challenger, who pressured and pressed and countered well, but seemed to hold back just a touch. That all changed in the championship rounds as the two men traded bombs, unloading some great shots during a fantastic back and forth, especially in the final round.
By the final bell it seemed clear that Valdez had retained his title, and all the judges had it in favour of the Mexican, but given the performance of the challenger it's almost certain that he will get another shot at a title in the future. His stock rose dramatically with his loss, and in all honesty that can help a career out massively.
Despite being a real unknown in boxing circles prior to this weekend Japanese fighter Hiroshige Osawa (30-4-4, 19) [大沢 宏晋] managed to fight for the WBO Featherweight title on Saturday night as he took on unbeaten Mexican champion Oscar Valdez (21-0, 19).
Unfortunately for Osawa he was unable to shock the world with a performance to remember, though he did, in some ways, impress with his toughness as he took a steady and one-sided beating from Valdez, lasting much longer than many would have expected.
From the opening seconds it was clear that their was a gulf of difference between the two men and Valdez out boxed and out slugged Osawa who was only landing single shots when he had any success, whilst Valdez landed combinations at will, to both the head and body of Valdez.
It wasn't until round 4 that Valdez's much vaunted power really had Osawa in trouble, with the Japanese fighter being dropped, though he gritted his teeth and bounced up to continue the contest, which continued to remain one sided.
With Osawa trying to fight back, and never being in major trouble, the fight became a bit or a procession with Valdez even switching to southpaw to get some rounds in in the alternative stance, and even as a southpaw the Mexican landed at will.
In round 7 Osawa's toughness was too much, with the Japanese fighter taking bombs on the ropes from Valdez until the referee finally, mercifully, saved him.
For Osawa he got to fight for a world title at long last, something he likely didn't expect just a few years ago when the JBC suspended his license. Whilst he came up short no one can fault his bravery or courage. Sadly if anything some will question Valdez, and his struggle to put away Osawa, though he never was in trouble there were flaws exposed that will need to be sorted out before the Mexican takes on an elite level talent.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.