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Gary Antonio Russell vs Juan Carlos Payano opens December 19th SHO card

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Reymart Gaballo steps up on short notice to face Emmanuel Rodriguez in the main event

Gary Russell Jr. v Joseph Diaz Jr. Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In addition to confirming their new December 19th main event between Reymart Gaballo and Emmanuel Rodriguez, Showtime has announced that a bantamweight clash between Gary Antonio Russell and Juan Carlos Payano will open the broadcast.

Unbeaten Brandun Lee is also set to return against Dakota Linger on the undercard.

Russell (17-0, 12 KO), brother of featherweight champion Gary Jr. and 2016 Olympian turned super lightweight prospect Gary Antuanne, has largely spent his five-year career on cruise control, beating up soft opposition on various PBC undercards. Last time out, he took a six-round DQ win over Jesus Martinez before his brother’s February title defense against Tugstsogt Nyambayar.

“I’m ready for this fight,” said Russell. “We have been in the gym training hard despite the pandemic. I’m looking forward to getting back in the ring. We know our opponent is coming to fight, and so are we. I’m prepared for whatever he brings.”

The 36-year-old Payano (21-4, 9 KO), reeling from destructive losses to Naoya Inoue and Luis Nery, proved he still had something in the tank earlier this year by stepping up in weight to give former unified champ Daniel Roman everything he could handle. Though ancient for the division, he’s far and away Russell’s best opponent to date.

“I can’t wait to get back in the ring before the end of the year,” said Payano. “I’m excited for the opportunity on SHOWTIME against an undefeated bantamweight. He’s never faced anyone like me, and I plan to test him from the opening bell and give the fans a great show. Uncasville, CT, and Mohegan Sun is a first-class city and venue. Thank you to PBC for giving me this opportunity.”

It’s unclear whether this will serve as an eliminator of any kind, though Russell is #2 in the WBA rankings.

The press release also provided some quotes for the main event and the co-feature between Jaron Ennis and Chris Van Heerden.

“This is a dream come true to have another chance to fight for the title,” said Rodríguez. “Even with the opponent change, I know it will be a tough challenge, but I’ve worked too hard and put in too much time in the gym to allow myself to lose this fight on December 19.”

“I’m very excited for this fight,” said Gaballo. “I can’t wait to step into the ring again. Since March, I’ve been training in Miami, and I’m planning to take advantage of this opportunity. I have an adamant opponent, but I’m going to show everyone what I can do and make sure I’m victorious.”

“I can’t wait to get in there to make a big statement,” said Ennis. “I am ready to show out and put on a crushing performance. This is one step closer to the bigger names and my world title shot.”

“Sometimes, it can take years for that one moment to come around and change your life,” said Van Heerden. “I have waited seven years for this opportunity to do my part and inspire my country of South Africa. Even with three weeks’ notice and coming in as the underdog, I am taking advantage of the opportunity that has been placed in front of me in these challenging times.