This Saturday, Mark Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) has a chance to pull off the first upset of 2022 as he is the mandatory challenger against current WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KOs).
Does the Filipino have what it takes to do what only Vasiliy Lomachenko has done? I went through the game tapes to see how much of a shot Magsayo has, and I present my scouting report to you.
Magsayo comes into the contest a slight underdog. The odds would have been wider if it wasn’t for Russell’s inactivity. He's been “in the gym” this whole time, however, and with this latest challenge against Magsayo, how much rust will we see him shake off Saturday night at the Borgota.
If Magsayo has any chance to make this fight close, he's going to have to match the speed and find his range early on Russell. This is the biggest takeaway from his knockout win against Julio Ceja as he adjusted later in the fight, which got him the 10th round stoppage but took a while to get there. Had this fight gone the distance and to the judge's scorecards, we might be talking about the story of Ceja here. Magsayo has power, but he'll have to find a way to be faster than Russell to land one to stop Russell, as I don't see Magsayo outboxing him.
That is because one man has been able to outbox Russell, and his name is Vasiliy Lomachenko, which was almost eight years ago. While Russell mentioned he still wants revenge for that loss, he'll have to avoid the inside engagement of Magsayo, which if you have seen a Mr. Russell fight, you know, he bounces in and out of a fighter range faster than most fighters as his hand speed lets him. Russell's significant advantage besides speed in this fight against Magsayo is the unknown until the bell rings, and that is his mental state. Russell has been training himself as his father is dealing with diabetes that kept him out of most of this camp leading up to this fight.
This sport thrives on upsets and underdog stories. For Magsayo to add his name to that list against Russell, he'll have to show us a new wrinkle in the ring. Otherwise, this will play out as another boxing session for Russell with wide scorecards.