Monday, May 23, 2022

Gary Russell Jr. vs. Mark Magsayo: Fight prediction, card, odds, start time, how to watch, Showtime Boxing

Gary Russell Jr. is set to return to the ring and defend his WBC featherweight championship when he faces Mark Magsayo in the main event of Showtime Championship Boxing on Saturday night. It is Russell’s first fight in nearly two years.

Inactivity has become something of a hallmark of Russell’s career. He has not fought more than once in a year since 2014 and was kept out of the ring entirely in 2021 when Rey Vargas suffered a fractured leg that forced him out of a planned March bout with Russell.

To hear Russell tell it, his light schedule is the fault of frightened opponents, not a lack of desire to get in the ring.

“The reason I’m competing once a year is we’re not getting a dance partner,” Russell told ESPN. “I’m forced to fight the next best guy rather than a champion. I definitely want to be more active. I know I’m not content with competing once a year. … There are no concerns about ring rust. I’m always in the gym. I haven’t taken two months off from training since I was about 4 or 5.”

The inactivity has also allowed Russell to lock down a spot as the longest-reigning active champion in boxing, having held his title since March 2015.

While he insists ring rust isn’t a concern, there was a hiccup for Russell on Friday as he missed weight on his first attempt, taking nearly all of the allotted hour to get below 126 pounds to finally weigh in at 125.5, narrowly avoiding losing his “longest-reigning” status on the scales.

Attention now turns to Saturday and the fight with Magsayo, who was moved to mandatory status ahead of Vargas by the WBC. Magsayo is a rugged Filipino, who proved his mettle in his most recent outing, winning a back and forth war with Julio Ceja in which both men suffered knockdowns before Magsayo closed the show with a brutal knockout.

Magsayo isn’t an easy out, but he isn’t quite at the level of fighter fans and media have demanded Russell face in those rare moments he chooses to step in the ring. That’s especially true of a competitive featherweight division that includes plenty of good names and action fighters.

Still, when Russell is in the ring, he looks the part of an elite fighter, with slick skills that have allowed him to easily handle his annual mandatory title challengers, most notably a win over Joseph Diaz in 2018.

Russell claims he wants to be more active in the future and also has called for fights with Gervonta Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko, who defeated Russell by majority decision in a June 2014 WBO title clash.

But first, Russell needs to handle business against Magsayo. Then, it will be seen if the 33-year-old pursues those bigger fish and a more active schedule.

Russell vs. Magsayo card, odds

Gary Russell Jr. (c) -380

Mark Magsayo +300

WBC featherweight title

Subriel Matias -450

Petros Ananyan +350

Super lightweight

Tugstsogt Nyambayar -450

Sakaria Lukas +350

Featherweight

Prediction

The odds here are a bit closer than you’d expect for a fight like this, likely as a result of Russell being out of the ring since February 2020. Skill for skill, Russell is hands-down the better fighter. Magsayo was in serious trouble against Ceja and two fights prior to that edged out a split decision over Rigoberto Hermosillo. Ceja and Hermosillo aren’t exactly on Russell’s level, which isn’t a great sign for Magsayo. It’s likely that this plays out as the kind of fight where Russell is able to simply outbox and outwork a game Magsayo to cruise to another of his yearly title defenses. Pick: Gary Russell Jr. via UD

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