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Gary Russell Jr and Rey Vargas come to terms for mandatory title defense

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Vargas vacated his super bantamweight title after five successful defenses

Gary Russell Jr v Tugstsogt Nyambayar Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr, one of the rare few fighters whose schedule saw no impact whatsoever from the COVID pandemic, is nearly set for his annual appearance. The sanctioning body revealed yesterday evening that he successfully came to terms with mandatory challenger Rey Vargas and that TGB Promotions would “announce the date and place for this attractive bout shortly.”

Russell (31-1, 18 KO) made his fastest turnaround since 2015 when, a paltry nine months after a grotesque mismatch against Kiko Martinez, he successfully defended the belt against game challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar in February 2020. He spent the rest of the year calling out lightweights and welterweights, all while claiming his one-fight-per-year schedule was the result of fighters avoiding him.

Funny how all those other highly skilled champs keep managing 2-3 fights a year. It’s a mystery.

Vargas (34-0, 22 KO) hasn’t fought since a July 2019 decision over Tomoki Kameda, the fifth defense of his super bantamweight title. He actually has an excuse, however: a broken leg that led him to first be named champion in recess and then vacate the belt. Per WBC regulations, he immediately obtained mandatory status upon moving up to 126, setting up the impending clash with Russell.

The 30-year-old was unquestionably one of the best 122-pounders in the world and will have considerable height and reach advantages over Russell; he’s a lot closer to JoJo Diaz or Nyambayar than Martinez or Oscar Escandon. We’ll let you know as soon as we get more details.