By: Sean Crose
Hard to believe it’s been nearly a year already.
That’s right, it’s time for Gary Russell Jr’s yearly endeavor inside the boxing ring. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. Russell argues that he wants to be more active. It’s just that, well, the guy doesn’t fight much. And that’s too bad because the 31-1 WBC featherweight titlist is an excellent fighter. He may not be a knockout artist, but his fluid skill set is nothing short of impressive. At any rate, Russell Jr will be slipping between the ropes at Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel and Casino Saturday night in the main event of a card to be aired live on Showtime.
Russell Jr’s opponent? The undefeated Mark Magsayo. Fighting under Manny Pacquiao’s promotional outlet and trained by long time Pacquiao cornerman Freddy Roach, the 23-0 Magsayo is fighting for his first world title. He’s certainly not going up against any slouch. Yet anyone who saw Magsayo’s last fight, an absolute war against Julio Ceja last summer in a title eliminator, knows just what the Filipino fighter is capable of. After going down from body shots that didn’t stop coming after he got up, Magsayo landed a picture perfect straight right in the tenth that send Ceja down – and completely out. That fight led to this weekend’s battle. If nothing else, Magsayo has shown the heart and power to have earned his shot, which means he’s no slouch himself.
As for Russell Jr – his last match was in February of 2021 against the undefeated, 11-0 Tugstsogt Nyambayar. Although Nyambayar wasn’t lacking in skill or courage, the sharp shooting awkwardness of the southpaw Russell proved to be too much. It’s worth noting here that Russell looks like more than a top fighter when he practices his craft. He looks like a SPECIAL fighter. The man wins again and again. What’s more, his only loss was to Vasyl Lomachenko, one of the greats of the era. Russell Jr, of course, wants high profile matches – which can frankly be hard to come by, especially for a fighter of Russell’s caliber. Should he impress on Saturday, however, the longest reigning titlist in the sport may make himself that much harder to avoid.
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