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Averting a hijack


PhilBoxing.com





Mark Magsayo admitted that at the end of his WBC featherweight title fight against defending champion Gary Russell, Jr. in Atlantic City last weekend, he was worried about the decision. But coach Freddie Roach told him to relax, that the crown was in the bag because he had done so much more than Russell. Still, it was an anxious wait for Magsayo before the decision was announced.

Not that Magsayo doubted himself. He knew in his heart and mind, he deserved to win. But you’ll never know in boxing. Judges aren’t the most credible in the business and kangaroo courts aren’t rare especially when odds show a wide disparity in a world championship bout. MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons said he gave Russell only three rounds, four at most so in his scorecard, it was either 116-112 or 117-111 for Magsayo.

When ring announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr. read the scorecards, Gibbons was aghast. Judge Lynne Carter of Philadelphia scored it 114-114, awarding Russell five of the six rounds from the third to the eighth. The other judges Mark Consentino and Henry Grant concurred in scoring the eighth for Magsayo but not Carter. In 2019, Carter was a judge when JohnRiel Casimero stopped Zolani Tete to wrest the WBO bantamweight title in Birmingham and has officiated in over 750 fights so she’s no novice. Carter is in the record books as the first woman to judge in a world title fight sanctioned by the WBA and WBO. Consentino and Grant had it 115-113 for Magsayo who dethroned Russell by a majority verdict. Was it really that close? At the end of the ninth, Carter had Russell ahead by a point even if he fought one-armed after the fourth where a smack from Magsayo jarred his shoulder.

Russell claimed he injured his shoulder in training two weeks before the fight. Someone said he should’ve pulled out of the match but just took the money and ran. That’s assuming he came in with a hurt shoulder which Magsayo doubts. Magsayo said Russell looked fine in the first three rounds until the Filipino blasted his shoulder, causing the champion to grunt in pain. Gibbons said Magsayo averted a hijack by the judges. It looked like the judges were swayed by the odds that installed Russell a 3-1 favorite. Believe it or not, all three judges gave the 12th round to Russell. It looked like they ran out of rounds to award to Russell in conspiring to engineer a great escape. The punch stats surely didn’t reflect how close the judges saw it. Magsayo landed 150 punches, Russell 69 and in power shots, Magnifico connected 140 and the loser 58. In jabs, Magsayo threw 203 and Russell, 64. Clearly, Magsayo was the busier fighter with a higher workrate, more connections and a bigger volume. Were the judges scoring another fight?

Gibbons said he hopes Magsayo enjoys a long reign like Luisito Espinosa, a Filipino who once held the same belt. Espinosa was the WBC featherweight champion from 1995 to 1999 and booked seven successful defenses. Other Filipinos who were featherweight titlists were Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, Jr. so Magsayo is in elite company. Gibbons said Magsayo’s win had to be one of the most incredible upsets in Philippine world title history. Russell was a -380 bet and Magsayo, +300. Among the biggest upsets involving Filipino fighters were Rolando Navarrete halting Cornelius Boza Edwards in the sixth round for the WBC superfeatherweight title in Italy in 1981, Roberto Cruz blitzing Raymundo (Battling) Torres in a single round for the WBA superlightweight crown at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles in 1963 and Manny Pacquiao stopping Oscar de la Hoya in the eighth round in Las Vegas in 2008.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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