Gary Russell Jr. Back After Lengthy Sabbatical

01/21/2022 - By Chris Carlson - Comments

This Saturday the WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. returns from almost a 2-year sabbatical. Russell’s opponent is the WBC mandatory Mark Magsayo, an unbeaten fighter fresh off a back and forth affair against Julio Ceja.

Can the fairly green especially at the championship level Magsayo pull off what would be a big upset? Or will experience rule the night in favor of Gary?

This card will be broadcasted on Showtime/Showtime App and the co-feature has an intriguing rematch bout between Subriel Matias and Petros Ananyan.

The last time Gary Russell Jr. stepped into the ring was all the way pre-pandemic in February 2020 defeating a solid guy in Tugstsogt Nyambayar.

Later in the beginning of the Covid-19 summer of 2020 and really ever since that outing Gary has been a highly discussed topic on boxing Twitter and YouTube channels.

Gary Russell Jr. Back After Lengthy Sabbatical

Whether the possible matchups were actually realistic or not Gary was calling out everyone from Gervonta Davis to 147-pounder Terence Crawford. The only fighter there were actual discussions with is Devin Haney.

The fighters and Bill Haney traded words on ThaBoxingVoice podcast but like so many social media “beefs” involving boxers nothing happens in the real world where fights get made.

Although at one point in his career Russell was content to fight once a year until a big enough money fight came along there has been a clear change in his mentality.

No longer signed with Al Haymon makes it a tad more difficult to be a priority in the PBC sphere but it does allow him to have free range with other promoters if something big presented itself.

Russell has spoken about moving up to 130 or maybe even 135 in search of legacy and/or money.

If Gary gets by Magsayo there is a chance he could be matched later in the year with Leo Santa Cruz. I have to admit that last sentence sounded crazy to type because that would equate to Gary fighting more than once in 2022.

Beyond a longer than normal layoff which is usually nullified by Gary staying in the gym year round this time it’s a bit different. Two items stand out as to why it may not be the same old Russell Jr. we’ve become accustomed to seeing once a year.

Gary Russell Jr. Back After Lengthy Sabbatical

One, his father needed serious surgery which prevents him from training Gary so basically he’s been training himself as he put it. The stress on the family has to be very difficult so my thoughts go out to the whole Russell clan.

To make matters worse Gary spoke of a “slight” injury he has leading up to the fight. As we know most fighters don’t come in 100% healthy but the way Gary also said he will discuss the injury post-fight adds another layer of doubt. Rust, not having a smooth camp and then an injury he felt was worth mentioning during fight week doesn’t sound like keys to having a great performance.

Mark Magsayo is 23-0 with 16 KO’s and at age 26 is ready to enter the prime of his career. Magsayo’s best two opponents are his last outing in Julio Ceja and versus Chris Avalos way back in 2016.

Magsayo has some speed and pop but has also shown to be a tad chinny at times and his defense is lacking. We’ve witnessed time after time boxers learning from a subpar bout only to come back stronger.

In recent months the perfect example is George Kambosos so let’s not judge him too much on this last fight in which he was dropped. It should be mentioned Ceja also out-landed Mark and was the more accurate of the two that night.

Given all the circumstances on the GRJ side of things, this will be a competitive fight. Maybe not the final tally but in the first half it could be 3-3 or 4-2 Gary and within the rounds due to injury and/or rust by Gary we could get plenty of two-way traffic.

My Official Prediction is Gary Russell Jr. by Unanimous Decision.

Side Note: Don’t you dare miss the co-feature rematch between Subriel Matias and Petros Ananyan. Let’s see if Subriel can right his wrong from almost 2 years ago, if so he moves on if not back to the drawing board. A win for Petros would advance his career in a big way.

Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio