Gary Russell Jr. wasn’t exaggerating when he said before Friday’s weigh-in that he still has no problems whatsoever making the featherweight limit of 126 pounds.
The long-reigning WBC featherweight champion came in at 125¼ pounds for his mandatory title defense against Tugstsogt Nyambayar on Saturday night at PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Nyambayar was slightly heavier than Russell, as he came in at 125½ pounds.
The 31-year-old Russell (30-1, 18 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, has been installed by most Internet sports books as a 4-1 favorite to defeat Mongolia’s Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KOs), the WBC’s number challenger for Russell’s title.
Russell will make just the fifth defense of a crown he won nearly five years ago, when he knocked out Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez in the fourth round of their March 2015 bout.
“My toughest challenger’s myself,” Russell told Showtime’s Steve Farhood following the weigh-in. “I never focus on my opponent. You know, my toughest challenge is preparing myself to the best of my ability. I think he’s a good fighter. I think he’s gonna bring his physical best. He has everything to gain and nothing to lose. But I feel as though he need a little more than that.”
The 27-year-old Nyambayar, a Los Angeles resident, will fight for the first time in just over a year. He hasn’t competed since out-pointing the Dominican Republic’s Claudio Marrero (24-3, 17 KOs) in their 12-round elimination match last January 26 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Showtime will televise Russell-Nyambayar as the main event of a three-bout broadcast set to begin at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Earlier Friday, Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux and Panama’s Liborio Solis both made weight for the second of three fights Showtime will broadcast Saturday night.
The 39-year-old Rigondeaux (19-1, 13 KOs, 1 NC), a longtime 122-pound champion, weighed in at a career-low 117¼ pounds for his debut in the bantamweight division. The 37-year-old Solis (30-5-1, 14 KOs, 1 NC) officially weighed 117½ pounds.
Rigondeaux and Solis will fight for the vacant WBA world bantamweight title.
Only one boxer, Jaime Arboleda, met his contractual obligation for the opener of Showtime’s telecast. Panama’s Arboleda (15-1, 13 KOs) got on the scale at 129½ pounds for his 10-round, 130-pound bout against Puerto Rico’s Jayson Velez (29-5-1, 21 KOs), who weighed in at 130½ pounds.
Velez was granted one hour to return to the scale at 130 pounds or lower. Regardless, the fight is expected to proceed as planned.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.