Saturday Night Live: Russell vs. Nyambayar
By Robert Ecksel on February 7, 2020
King Tug may not score the upset, but he has the skills, hunger, and attitude to keep it real.
On Saturday, February 8, in the weekend’s must-watch main event televised live on Showtime from PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (30-1, 18 KOs), the lightning-fast southpaw from Capital Heights, Maryland, will defend his 126-pound title against mandatory challenger Tugstsogt "King Tug" Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KOs), from Las Vegas by way of Ulan-Bator, Mongolia.
The fight will be Russell’s fifth defense of the title he won by stopping reigning and defending champion Jhonny Gonzalez in 2015. With his extensive amateur background and elevated skills, 31-year-old Russell is one of boxing super elite competitors. He has not fought a fighter with a losing record in a decade, and with the exception of a majority decision loss to Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2014, from which he rebounded to win the crown, he is the class of the division. The only knock on Russell is the infrequency with which he fights, which will likely be forgotten when the opening bell rings.
“I'm forced to defend my title against another mandatory challenger and I'm going to show on February 8 why none of the other champions want to face me,” said Russell. “I'm the longest current reigning WBC champion but no one has stepped up to the challenge I present. I'm going to take care of business against a strong opponent and display all my skills like I always do.
“I think Tug is a lot more technically sound than a lot of the guys who I have competed against. He’s another guy with everything to gain and nothing to lose. He’s going to leave it all on the line, so I’m anticipating a tough fight.”
His opponent is not well-known, even among the sport’s cognoscenti, and has yet to face a fighter of Russell’s caliber. But the undefeated 27-year-old Olympic silver medalist went 140-10 as an amateur and by all appearances is the real deal. He is a pressure fighter with power who can make adjustments in the ring. He is also, like his hero Manny Pacquiao, humble and eschews trash talk.
“This is going to be an exciting fight for everyone watching on February 8,” he said. “Gary Russell Jr. is a great champion who is very talented, but he has the WBC belt and that's what I want. I know that I’m the underdog, but that doesn’t affect me. I don’t care if I’m the favorite or the underdog. I'm training hard to win this fight and I will be ready for anything that Russell brings to the ring.”
King Tug may not score the upset, although stranger things have happened, but he has the skills, hunger, and attitude to make a real fight of it, which is ultimately what boxing is all about.
The telecast begins at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT with former world champions Guillermo Rigondeaux and Liborio Solís fighting for the vacant WBA bantamweight title in the co-main event, while Jaime Arboleda meets Jayson Veléz in a WBA super featherweight title eliminator.