SAN DIEGO, Calif., February 8, 2020 – WBC Featherweight World Champion “Mister” Gary Russell Jr. put on a show of high-level boxing skills in a fast-paced sprint to another victory over challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar of Mongolia Saturday. Russell Jr. won by unanimous decision by scores of 118-110, 117-111, and 116-112 to retain his title in his fifth defense.
Russell Jr. of Citrus Heights, Maryland (31-1, 17 KOs) gave Nyambayar (11-1, 9 KOs) far too much to handle. It took Nyambayar the first few rounds to get a handle on Russell Jr.’s much-admired hand speed, which never disappoints. By the middle rounds, Nyambayar knew he would need to start taking more risks and moving closer to Russell Jr. At four inches taller, Nyambayar should have been able to land punches at range, but Russell Jr. picks them off and blocks them as if he’s wearing Wonder Woman’s wrist bracelets.
“I want to thank my father, he’s a hell of a trainer. He never shows any lack of creativity,” said Russell Jr. “We put the work in in the gym. I’m a perfectionist. We had a tough opponent, he had everything to gain and nothing to lose,” said Russell Jr.
Russell Jr. said the difference boiled down to experience. “He only had 11 professional fights, I have over 30 something professional fights. It’s my experience,” said Russell Jr.“We put the work in the gym. We never take a day off. I’ll probably be back in the gym next week,” said Russell Jr.
It takes tremendous focus and effort to fight with defensive precision, and Russell Jr. slowed down just enough to let Nyambayar make the last three rounds more competitive. Nyambayar has a good body attack and landed enough shots to win rounds, but not seriously hurt Russell Jr. or threaten the scores.
Nyambayar said, “It wasn’t my night. He was the better man tonight. I didn’t do my work tonight. He is a great champion. I was just waiting for him, I made a mistake,” said Nyambaya, saying he’d be open to a rematch.
Russell Jr. says he wants to fight three times in 2020. Would he like a rematch with the one opponent to beat him, Vasiliy Lomachenko? “Of course, that’s a no brainer. I want Lomachenko again. I have too much integrity as a man not to. We want Leo Santa Cruz, we want Tank Davis. If we have to move up in weight to take the fights, we’ll do so.”
Since 2015, Russell Jr. has fought precisely once a year. This needs to change for Russell Jr. to join the elite names in the lower weight divisions. As skilled as he is, it’s not enough to make a single appearance every year and then retreat back to the gym and put his belt on ice. Here’s hoping Russell Jr. is good to his word.
Guillermo Rigondeaux returns to championship form
Guillermo Rigondeaux of Miami via Cuba (20-1, 13 KOs) is once again a world champion. The 39-year-old won a split decision over Liborio Solis (30-6, 14 KOs) of Venezuela via Panama fight for a regular WBA Bantamweight Title. It is Rigondeaux’s first title at bantamweight, and he becomes the oldest man to win a title in the division. Rigondeaux won by split decision. Scorecards were 116-111 and 115-112 for Rigondeaux, and 115-112 for Solis.
Rigondeaux looked comfortable and fit after making 118 pounds, and began the bout going right at Solis in the first round. Would the finesse fighter really make it a brawl? After getting caught by two Solis headshots near the end of the round, Rigondeaux’s trainer Ronnie Shields told him to knock it off and he thought the better of it.
When Rigondeaux believed he had an opening, he blasted Solis with short bursts of power punching. Otherwise, he shut it down and slowed the action down to remove opportunities for Solis to land counterpunches. It was the smart thing to do, but not the popular thing. The Allentown fans let Rigondeaux know how they felt about the lack of action.
Rigondeaux came close to ending the fight with a knockdown in Round 7 with a left uppercut, followed by a straight left pushing Solis back into the ropes. Referee Benjy Esteves called it a knockdown as Solis was held up by the ropes. It ended up saving Solis from getting knocked out. Rigondeaux was coming in to finish the job. Solis got the count, and thanks to his experience, he knows how to buy himself time and get through a round to let his head clear.
The exciting moments were few, and in the quiet stretches, boxing connoisseurs could enjoy the technique and ring IQ of Rigondeaux. He won’t win Fight of the Year, but he did win and that’s what counts.
Rigondeaux gave all the credit to his team after the fight. “He’s the real champion, (trainer) Ronnie Shields. The preparation he did for me for this fight was incredible.
Of the knockdown, Rigondeaux said, “Liborio is an excellent fighter. I saw the opportunity to strike,.”
“Our team lives with me more than their own family. It is the team that got together and gave me the victory at this age,” said Rigondeaux, who waved off the booing of the crowd as he left the ring.
If Rigondeaux plans to stay at bantamweight, the major titleholders include the formidable Naoya Inoue, who will fight John Riel Casimero in a unification fight on April 25, and Nordine Oubaali of France. Luis Nery is also a potential opponent.
Jaime Arboleda gets past Jayson Velez in split decision
Panamanian prospect Jaime Arboleda of Miami (16-1, 13 KOs) squeaked by veteran Jayson Velez of Puerto Rico (29-6-1, 21 KOs)a to win a 12 round WBA Super Featherweight title eliminator. Scores were 114-113 X 2 for Arboleda, and 115-113 for Velez on the third card.
Arboleda and Velez tossed aside any real effort at putting on much of a defense and slugged it out for 12 hard rounds. It was just plain rough at times, but the Allentown fans enjoyed it. Arboleda steadily increased the pace as the fight went on, but the veteran Velez found a second gear and kept up. Both dished out plenty of punishment. Velez scored a 12th round knockdown, and most observers agreed with judge Eric Marlinski who scored it for Velez. But it wasn’t a robbery.
After the bout, Arboleda posted a photo of himself with Velez on Twitter, writing “Without a doubt Jayson Velez is a great warrior, a great athlete and an excellent person. My regards to him. Definitely the most difficult fight of my career.” Credit to both warriors for their sportsmanship.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media at@PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
Copyright © 2020 by Falcon Valley Group