Gary Russell Jr. outpoints resilient Tugstsogt Nyambayar to retain WBC featherweight title

Showtime Boxing

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. was expected to face one of his toughest tests on Saturday night since claiming the title in 2015 from Jhonny Gonzalez as he battled undefeated mandatory challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar. The test was, in fact, by no means easy, but it was indeed one that was passed as Russell retained his 125-pound title with a unanimous decision victory over "King Tug" at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. 

Russell (31-1, 18 KOs) flashed the signature hand speed early and often as he kept the notorious power-punching Nyambayar (11-1, 9 KOs) at bay and attempted to alter his challenger's aggressive gameplan. Through the course of the first few rounds, it appeared as if Russell would cruise along to the fifth defense of his title while humbling the inexperienced Mongolian. 

In the middle rounds, however, Nyambayar, being cheered on by the raucous section of his Mongolian supporters in attendance at the PPL Center, continued to push forward toward the champ and inflict damage at points. While many inexperienced championship fighters would have maybe folded in the face of the overwhelming speed that Russell presents in the ring, Nyambayar showed us all a resiliency that could one day play a part in helping him raise a title above his head in the middle of the ring. 

In the end, though, Russell was able to outbox the 2012 Olympic silver medalist just enough to roll on as the reigning WBC featherweight champion of the world with the three judges ringside agreeing by scores of 116-112, 117-111 and 118-110.

"We put the work in every day in the gym. I'm a perfectionist," Russell said after the win. "We knew we had a very tough opponent and I knew he was going to bring his physical best. He had everything to gain and nothing to lose. We just focused and showed I'm one of the longest reigning champions for a reason

"The difference was ring generalship, hand speed and boxing IQ. He only had 11 pro fights, of course he was an Olympic silver medalist, but he only had those 11 pro fights. I've had over 30 and I think my experience was enough to overcome and win this fight. 

With the questions regarding the "King Tug" test now answered, the attention as it pertains to Russell turns to both activity -- Russell irks many by averaging one fight per calendar year -- as well as weight class. The latter was addressed following the victory, as Russell expressed a desire to move up to 135 pounds for a rematch with pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko. 

"If we have to move up in weight for these top fighters to feel like they have an advantage and take the fight, then we'll do it," Russell said.

"I want Lomachenko again. That's not for the fans, that's something for me."

In addition, Russell also mentioned Leo Santa Cruz and Gervonta Davis, though pending legal matters could throw a wrench into those plans, as potential targets above his weight. 

Jack joined CBS Sports in 2018 as an editor and writer covering college football, combat sports and golf. He was raised to love the New York Yankees unconditionally since birth and firmly believes a four-team... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories