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.
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.
World Title Results
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