By Steve Kim Updated on January 24, 2022

Russell Dies on the Vine

Picture for Russell Dies on the Vine

Gary Russell died on the vine.

There is a new WBC featherweight champion in Mark Magsayo as a damaged Russell was unable to muster up enough of an attack to retain his title. After 12 mostly redundant rounds, it was the Filipino who was ruled the winner via majority decision by the scores of 114-114 and 115-113(twice).

But in reality this fight wasn't that close. For much of this bout Russell was in retreat and had a very sporadic offensive attack. Magsayo, who looked much bigger physically on fight night, methodically pressed forward and carried the fight. His attack wasn't always effective, but he landed the harder punches on this fight, and that many more.

To sum this fight up: one guy did little, the other one did even less.

Picture for Russell Dies on the VineAmanda Westcott, Showtime Sports

Some will point to Russell's damaged right shoulder coming into this bout that hampered his performance. It was noticeable how reluctant Russell was to throw out his jab, or unleash his right hook that has been a key part of his arsenal in the past.

Perhaps he should be credited for sticking around and being an often elusive target for Magsayo, but the bottom line is that you don't judge a professional prizefight on a curve. While Russell made his foe miss plenty, the problem is that he rarely landed anything of significance on his end. You can talk all day and night about defense, ring generalship and boxing, but if you are consistently out-landed round after round -- you don't deserve to get your hand raised in victory.

Going back to Russell's injury, nobody is denying the validity of it. But like Manny Pacquiao and 

Vasiliy Lomachenko, who went into their own bouts in the past with similar ailments, you have to live with the result of the bout if you choose to go ahead with a fight. There are no asterisks or do-overs in this racket. Russell made the choice -- after two years of inactivity -- to roll the dice in Atlantic City.

Picture for Russell Dies on the VineAmanda Westcott/Showtime Sports

And he came up snake eyes.

Magsayo is a fair fighter (Please, no comparisons to Manny Pacquiao. Outside of having the same trainer in Freddie Roach and hailing from the Philippines, they really have nothing in common) but on this night he was good enough to beat this version of Russell. Yeah, you could state that Russell is still the superior boxer. I wouldn't disagree. But sometimes it isn't really the opponent that defeats you, but the circumstances.

Russell, who hadn't fought since February of 2020, was a boxer that wasn't just battling ring rust this time around, or a weight issue -- as it took two attempts to make the featherweight limit -- but now age. Currently he is 33, and you get the strong feeling that his best boxing is in the rear view mirror. In this game you are either sharpening the blade, or it's getting dulled. 

The talented but temperamental Russell never felt the need to push himself, or his handlers, to be more active.

Picture for Russell Dies on the VineAmanda Westcott/Showtime Sports

While Showtime pointed out that coming into this contest that Russell was one of the longest reigning world champions in the sport, having won his title way back in 2015, they neglected to point out that he only defended his green belt once-a-year from that point forward. In 2021 he didn't fight, at all. Those details matter.

The loss of Russell was celebrated in some circles not so much because of the effort of Magsayo, but because his championship reign was akin to a hostage situation, with how little he defended that belt.

Picture for Russell Dies on the VineFerns' tweet 

For Russell, this is just his second professional defeat in 33 pro outings. When his career comes to a close, it will probably be a case of what could've and should've been.

But really, what wasn't



I want to give kudos to referee, Mary Glover, who made the decision to halt the bout between Subriel Matias and Petros Ananyan after the ninth round of their grueling battle, that was beginning to turn into a bit of a beating.

Matias was really starting to lay it on Ananyan, and scored a knockdown at the end of the ninth frame. Eventually this bout was called off before the 10th round. It was the prudent call as you saw the sagging body language of Ananyan and his facial expression he wore while on the stool.

Picture for Russell Dies on the VineAmanda Westcott/Showtime Sports

As someone who was ringside (and then had to go to the hospital) after Matias' tragic bout versus Maxim Dadashev, that fight was eerily similar. Dadashev died a few days after getting halted by Matias in 11 rounds back in the summer of 2019.

Sometimes those extra couple rounds can become very dangerous -- and fatal.



This past week on 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' on Triller, ESPN's Tim Bradley, joined Mario Lopez and I to talk all things boxing. As you usual, he didn't hold back...

Tim Bradley aka Desert Storm talks to Mario and Kim | The 3 Knockdown Rule Ep. 15 | Triller TV



There is talk of a bout between Ryan Garcia and Tevin Farmer. It's an interesting match-up but keep this in mind, Farmer has not boxed in over two years. His last fight was a losing effort to Joseph Diaz (for his IBF 130-pound title) on Super Bowl weekend in 2020....It's time for all athletic commissions to start instituting instant replay like Nevada....Did Aaron Rodgers play his last game as a Green Bay Packer?.... Really enjoying 'American Rust' on Showtime....I can be reached at

About Author
Russell Dies on the Vine
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.