Gary Russell Jr.

Gary Russell Jr. Set To Defend WBC Featherweight Title Against Rey Vargas

Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing

It looks like WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KOs) is ready to make his yearly appearance inside of the squared circle. 

According to the WBC, Russell will next defend his 126-pound title against Rey Vargas (34-0, 22 KOs), as the two sides recently avoided a purse bid. Although the bout has reportedly been finalized, a date and a location for the matchup have not yet been set. 

Russell, the longest active-reigning male champion in boxing, has held the WBC title since 2015, but he’s been heavily criticized for his lack of activity. Since winning the title, he’s only defended it once a year, fighting once each in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. 

In his last fight, which took place in February 2020, the 32-year-old Russell scored a unanimous decision victory over Tugstsogt Nyambayar. Before that, he scored a fifth-round TKO victory over Kiko Martinez in May 2019, which followed a unanimous decision victory over former Super Featherweight titleholder JoJo Diaz in May 2018. 

Meanwhile, the undefeated Vargas previously reigned as the WBC Super Bantamweight champion, having won the vacant title with a majority decision victory over Gavin McDonnell in 2017. He then defended it five-straight times, with his most recent win coming via unanimous decision against Tomoki Kameda in July 2019.

Following his bout against Kameda, Vargas spent all of 2020 on the sidelines and was eventually named “champion in recess” by the WBC. His layoff was caused partly by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he also suffered a broken leg that put his career on hold as well. 

Upon his return, the Mexican was given the opportunity to compete for his old title, but he instead decided to move up in weight and test the waters at 126 pounds as long as he was labeled as the WBC’s mandatory challenger at featherweight. 

Vargas got his wish, and he’ll now have the opportunity to become a two-weight world champion when he meets the long-reining Russell. 

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