Gary Russell Jr. is set to end what will become his shortest layoff in five years.
Multiple sources have informed BoxingScene.com that Russell will make a mandatory defense of his WBC featherweight title against Tugstsogt Nyambayar on February 8. Showtime will televise the Russell-Nyambayar bout as the main event of a “Showtime Championship Boxing” broadcast expected to take place at PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Russell, 31, has fought just four times since he won the WBC 126-pound championship from Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez in March 2015. Each of the four fights the highly skilled southpaw has had since he stopped Gonzalez in the fourth round have happened essentially a year or more after his previous performance.
The 2008 Olympian will end an 8½-month layoff when he encounters Nyambayar. In his last fight, a heavily favored Russell recorded a fifth-round technical knockout of Spanish veteran Kiko Martinez on the Deontay Wilder-Dominic Breazeale undercard May 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Russell has talked throughout this year about higher-profile fights against Leo Santa Cruz, who has moved up to 130 pounds, and Gervonta Davis, who’ll make his 135-pound debut December 28 against Yuriorkis Gamboa. First, though, Russell must satisfy his mandatory obligation for the WBC.
Mongolia’s Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KOs), who won a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, will end an even longer layoff than Russell when they fight for Russell’s title.
The 27-year-old contender hasn’t fought since he won a WBC elimination match January 26 to become the mandatory challenger for Russell’s title. Nyambayar beat the Dominican Republic’s Claudio Marrero (24-3, 17 KOs) by unanimous decision in that 12-round, 126-pound eliminator at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
In his prior appearance, Nyambayar knocked out Colombia’s Oscar Escandon in the third round of a May 2018 bout in Biloxi, Mississippi. Russell stopped Escandon (25-5, 17 KOs) in the seventh round a year earlier in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.