WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. is set to make his fastest turnaround since 2015. Mike Coppinger reports that Russell, who has not fought since knocking out the criminally overmatched Kiko Martinez in May, will defend his belt against mandatory challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar on February 8th, with BoxRec tabbing the location as Allentown, PA.
Russell’s (30-1, 18 KO) last three defenses have come in 364-day intervals, and this will be his first time fighting a mandatory in over 20 months despite the WBC saying its champions should “strive” to fight three times a year and “shall make at least one (1) mandatory defense per year, unless an exception is granted by the WBC in its sole discretion.” Though Oscar Escandon and JoJo Diaz were mandatories, and the latter a genuine contender, Russell’s 2019 consisted entirely of smashing the unranked and undersized Martinez.
Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KO), who claimed 2012 Olympic silver at the age of 20, has been Russell’s mandatory since beating the dangerous Claudio Marrero in January. “King Tug” also boasts a third-round knockout of the aforementioned Escandon, plus four inches of height and two inches of reach on the champ.
Russell will still be favored, of course, but this is a legitimate challenge for him against a heavy-handed opponent whom he can’t coast against.