LONGTIME WBC featherweight title-holder Gary Russell Jnr had a shoulder injury and was coming off almost two years of inactively when he entered the ring to face undefeated challenger Mark Magsayo at the Borgata Hotel Casino Event Center. Twelve rounds later Russell exited the ring minus the title and a right shoulder hurting much more than when the fight started.

The 26-year-old Filipino got off to a positive start, slamming right-hand counters to the body. The left-handed Russell was cautious, backing away from his advancing opponent and throwing few punches. The second round followed a similar pattern.

Russell, 33, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, did marginally better in the third, but in the fourth Magsayo connected with a right to the head that noticeably hurt the title-holder.

Russell was boxing one-handed by the sixth and continued in that fashion until the final bell, his right arm dangling at this side as he ducked and dodged away from Magsayo’s advances. Instead of the injury benefitting the challenger, with Russell’s switch to max-defence mode he was even harder to hit than usual.

The ninth was one of Russell’s better rounds as he popped four good lefts into Magsayo’s face. The challenger rallied late but it wasn’t enough to overcome Russell’s earlier work.

Magsayo returned to his body attack down the stretch, while Russell occasionally pumped out a few lefts. Most of the second half of the match was a monotonous loop of Magsayo going after Russell but never doing any substantial damage. Russell, on the other hand, did even less.

The judges had to decide whether they liked Magsayo’s marginally effective offence or Russell’s shifty defense and parsimonious punch output. In the end it could very well have come down to preferring the boxer who looked like he was trying to win.

Judges Mark Consentino and Henry Eugene Grant scored the bout 115-113 in Magsayo’s favor, while Lynne Crater saw it 114-114, making Magsayo a majority decision winner and new title-holder.

Benjy Esteves Jnr was the referee.

Gary Russell Jr
Amanda Westcott/Showtime

The most entertaining match of the evening was a punch-filled super-lightweight bout between Subriel Matias and Petros Ananyan that resulted in an inside-the-distance victory for Puerto Rico’s Matias when the ringside doctor advised referee Mary Glover to stop the fight at the end of the ninth round.

Starting with the third round, Ananyan, a sturdy pressure fighter with a modest punch, and Matias, a more athletic and harder hitting boxer, battled it out toe-to-toe, taking turns whacking away at each other with little respite. Matias’ punches were usually faster and harder than Ananyan’s and that made all the difference. Still, Ananyan, 33, seemed to be enjoying himself. In the sixth he raised his arm over his head, smiled through the blood and yelled, “Let’s go!” and finished the round flurry.

Ananyan, his red face covered with welts and bumps, was fighting on heart alone by the eighth. Matias’ combinations took controlled of the fight and a left hook to the head floored Ananyan in the ninth and sealed the Armenian’s downfall.

The featherweight 10-rounder between Sakarina Lukas and Tugstsogt Nyambayar ended in a highly controversial split draw. Nyambayar landed his best punch of the fight in the first round, a left hook that staggered Lukas. After that the Mongolian never launched a sustained attack and looked punch shy throughout the fight.

Late sub Lukas, a full-time sergeant in the Namibian Marine Corps, was considered a big underdog, but as the fight wore on Nyambayar threw fewer and fewer punches, while Lukas was piling up points with right hands that began to land with authority.

In the eighth round Lukas connected with a hard right to the head, followed by a short, straight left to the chin that put Nyambayar on the canvas. Referee Eddie Claudio called what should’ve been a ruled a knockdown a slip, which immediately elicited a negative reaction from the crowd and Lukas’ corner.

They split the final two rounds, the ninth for Lukas and the 10th for Nyambayar.

The official scores were: Tony Lundy 96-94 for Lukas, Ron McNair 96-94 for Nyambayar and Robin Taylor 95-95. Had Mr. Claudio made the correct call, Lukas would have won a split decision.

After the decision was announced, Showtime’s Jim Gray repeatedly showed the referee replays of the knockdown, and every time Claudio claimed he didn’t see the knockdown punch. It got to such an embarrassing point Gray began laughing at the ref’s bizarre refusal to see what everybody else saw.

The Verdict It remains to be seen if the loss was just a bad night for rusty, injured Russell Jnr or the beginning of the end.