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Russell outpoints game King Tug

By Robert Ecksel on February 8, 2020

The fight grew more competitive as the rounds progressed. (Amanda Wescott/Showtime)


Saturday night at PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the main event televised live on Showtime Championship Boxing, WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KOs), the lightning-fast southpaw from Capital Heights, Maryland, successfully defended his 126-pound title by outpointing Tugstsogt "King Tug" Nyambayar (11-1, 9 KOs), the game but outclassed challenger from Las Vegas by way of Ulan-Bator, Mongolia.


The scores after 12 rounds were 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112, all in favor of Russell.


The fight was Russell’s fifth defense of the title he won by stopping Jhonny Gonzalez in 2015. Putting his speed, ring IQ and experience to good use, Russell controlled the action, especially in the early rounds, against a likely future champion who came into the bout having had only 11 professional bouts. But King Tug came to fight. He also came to win and the fight grew more competitive as the rounds progressed.


“The difference was ring generalship, hand speed and boxing IQ,” said Russell after the bout. “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.”


It was a satisfying defense against a gifted boxer-puncher. King Tug may have lost the decision, but he gained a lot of fans. He is definitely someone to watch.


“It wasn’t my night,” said Nyambayar. “He was the better man tonight. I didn’t do my work the way I was supposed to. He is a great champion who fought a great fight. I made a mistake by waiting for him during the fight. I’d love the rematch if I can get it.”


A rematch is unlikely, as Saturday’s fight may have been Russell’s last at 126. He has had trouble getting other elite fighters to face him and greener pastures presumably await him at a higher weight.


“I’ll probably be back in the gym next week,” said Russell, who fights to live rather than lives to fight. “We’ll keep our wheels turning and stay sharp. 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.


“I’m a perfectionist. 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.”


In the co-main event, Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-1, 13 KOs), the mercurial southpaw from Miami by way of Santiago de Cuba, had little difficulty outclassing Liborio Solis (30-6-1, 14 KOs), the former WBA super flyweight champion from Panama City, Panama, by way of Maracay, Venezuela, over 12 one-sided rounds to win the vacant WBA “regular” bantamweight title.  


It was a difficult fight to score and the judges split over the verdict. Two judges had it 116-111 and 115-112 for Rigondeaux, while the third saw it 115-112 for Solis.


After a curious opening round, where Rigondeaux strategically allowed Solis to knock him around the ring, “El Chacal” proceeded, amidst a torrent of escalating boos, to show his detractors and Solis why boxing is called the sweet science. With his elevated skills and exemplary composure, Rigo, not known as a fan-friendly fighter, resorted to all manner of defensive posturing to blunt his opponent’s offense. It was effective, if somewhat boring, and his trainer Ronnie Shields implored his fighter to let his hands go and fight.


With Solis continuing to stalk him, Rigondeaux selectively let his hands go midway through the fight and dropped his opponent in round seven. But with a paucity of punching from both men, one by choice and the other by circumstance, the fight wound down to an inevitable decision. The only surprise, aside from the first round, was that it wasn’t unanimous.


“Liborio is an excellent fighter,” said Rigondeaux, “but I saw the opportunity to strike and scored the knockdown. He gave me a run for my money. It was a competitive fight, congratulations to him for keeping up in the ring, but everyone knows the better fighter got the win.”


Rigo is definitely the better fighter, but he’s an acquired taste which the fight fans in Allentown weren’t buying.


“I hurt him in the first round and that’s what caused him to run,” said Solís. “I’d like a rematch because I thought I got the better of him tonight. Going backwards is no way to win a vacant title. I put the majority of the pressure on him. I’m not going to argue with the judges, but I thought I did enough to win.”

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