Featherweight world titleholder Gary Russell Jr. will come out of his annual hibernation to take on mandatory challenger Tugstsogt "King Tug" Nyambayar on Feb. 8, Premier Boxing Champions announced on Monday.
The fight, which will headline a "Showtime Championship Boxing" tripleheader (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET), will take place at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
"Gary Russell Jr. has proven himself to be at the very elite level of this sport and one of the best fighters in the featherweight division," said TGB Promotions president Tom Brown, who is promoting the card. "He's going to get all he can handle from an undefeated fighter in 'King Tug' Nyambayar, who has the pedigree and power to make this a memorable fight."
Russell (30-1, 18 KOs), 31, a southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, will be making the fifth defense of his 126-pound world title but boxing for the first time in nine months and for only the sixth time since 2014.
Russell has been chronically inactive for no particular reason for several years. He won his world title by fourth-round knockout of Jhonny Gonzalez in March 2015 in his only fight of that year. He has boxed just once in each year since despite no major injuries and there being plenty of opportunities, even if he could not get a unification bout. His only loss came by one-sided decision to Vasiliy Lomachenko when they met for a vacant featherweight world title in 2014. Russell has won six fights in a row since.
"I'm forced to defend my title against another mandatory challenger and I'm going to show on Feb. 8 why none of the other champions want to face me," Russell said. "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."
Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KOs), 27, claimed a 2012 Olympic silver medal for Mongolia but did not turn pro until 2015. But Nyambayar, who trains in Las Vegas, has been even more inactive recently than Russell as he will be coming off a 13-month layoff since his career-best win. That was a hard-fought unanimous decision against longtime contender Claudio Marrero in a world title elimination bout last Jan. 26 on the Keith Thurman-Josesito Lopez card in Brooklyn, New York.
"This is going to be an exciting fight for everyone watching on February 8," said Nyambayar. "Gary Russell Jr. is a great champion who is very talented, but he has the WBC belt and that's what I want. I'm training hard to win this fight and I will be ready for anything that Russell brings to the ring."
In the co-feature, lineal junior featherweight world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux will move down to the bantamweight division to fight former junior bantamweight world titlist Liborio Solis with a vacant secondary 118-pound belt.
The fight was originally scheduled to take place Dec. 21 but postponed because Solis could not get a visa in time to enter the United States. But that has been taken care of.
The southpaw Rigondeaux (19-1, 13 KOs), 39, a two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist fighting out of Miami, unified junior featherweight world titles when he outpointed Nonito Donaire in 2013. He did not lose until he went up two weight divisions to challenge then-junior lightweight titlist Lomachenko for his 130-pound belt in December 2017 in the first fight ever between two-time Olympic gold medalists. Lomachenko dominated and made Rigondeaux quit on his stool after the sixth round.
After taking a year off, Rigondeaux returned in January and has won two fights in a row, a first-round knockout of Giovanni Delgado and an eighth-round knockout of former world titlist Julio Ceja on June 23.
Solis (30-5-1, 14 KOs), 37, a Venezuela native fighting out of Panama, will be making his American debut. He has won five fights in a row since a loss and a no decision in two bantamweight world title bouts with Jamie McDonnell in 2016 and 2017.
In the opening bout, Jaime Arboleda (15-1, 13 KOs) is slated to fight Jayson Velez in a junior lightweight world title eliminator. Arboleda, 25, of Panama, has won five in a row since his lone loss to Recky Dulay in July 2017. Former featherweight world title challenger Velez (29-5-1, 21 KOs), 31, of Puerto Rico, has won three fights in a row by knockout since losing a lopsided 10-round decision loss to rising star Ryan Garcia in May 2018.