It’s understandable if Tugstsogt Nyambayar is not a household name. It’s also understandable if his “King Tug” nickname doesn’t register, either. After all, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist from Mongolia is just eleven fights into his pro career and has yet to face true world class, elite-level opposition.
But all of that is going to change this Saturday when the skilled, talented featherweight gets his first world title shot, matched against mega-talented defending WBC 126 lb. champ Gary Russell Jr. on Showtime.
The 27-year-old many boxing experts have pegged as a “can’t miss” prospect is one fight away from forcing himself on to the world stage and achieving his lifelong goal of becoming only the second Mongolian boxer to win a recognized world title.
With a record of 140-10 as an amateur, 11-0 as a pro, and a clearly visible next-level, almost impeccable skill set, Nyambayar is a gem of a fighter who adapts well in the ring and throws a vicious, potentially fight-ending right hand. He has all the tools to be a present-tense great and has already beaten two former interim world titlists.
“I’m happy and excited for this opportunity,” Nyambayar told Manouk Akopyan of Premier Boxing Champions. “I’m very focused on this fight right now. I wanted to be a boxer ever since I was a kid. I started watching all of the fights, and since there was only one Mongolian champion, I wanted to become the best ever. I have all of the tools. I bring all kinds of angles and I’m a pressure fighter. I can adjust to any kind of fight.
“Gary is a great champion. He’s the best and toughest opponent I’ve ever faced in my professional career. I’ve always respected him as one of the best boxers and top-level fighters.”
If the combination of confidence and humility sounds familiar, it might be because Nyambayar grew up idolizing Filipino and Asian icon Manny Pacquiao, who has conducted himself in a similarly classy way.
And the resemblance between “King Tug” and the “Pac-Man” may not end there. Nyambayar is standing on the precipice of a breakthrough fight as a relatively nameless foe against a much bigger star, just as Pacquiao was back in 2003 when he shocked the world by beating then-Ring Magazine featherweight champ and heavily-favored Marco Antonio Barrera.
Nyambayar, like Pacquiao back 17 years ago, is not intimidated by his underdog status or the fact that most fans tuning into Showtime this Saturday won’t even know who he is.
“It’s fine if they don’t know me or are writing me off,” Nyambayar said. “After the fight, when I win, everyone will know my name.
“I just want to be a great champion and a role model for the younger generation. Everything in my career will change when I win. I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since I turned pro. I sacrificed so much to be here. I want to be the next Mongolian to become a world champion.”
On Saturday, Nyambayar has the chance to immediately push his way to the top of a talented featherweight division and into the same rarefied air reserved for elites, like his childhood idol Manny Pacquiao. All of Mongolia will be watching… and you should too.
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