Gary Russell Jr. vs. Tugstsogt Nyambayar: Preview and prediction

Gary Russell Jr., WBC featherweight champion (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Gary Russell Jr., WBC featherweight champion (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images) /

Gary Russell Jr. comes into his Saturday, Feb. 8 featherweight title defense as the champion, but Tugstsogt Nyambayar has the skills to pull the upset.

Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KOs) is not a name that rolls off the tongue easily, but he may have what it takes to dethrone WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (30-1, 18 KOs).

Russell defends his title against Nyambayar on Saturday, Feb. 8, on Showtime in Allentown, PA, where he will enjoy the benefit of the crowd on his side. Allentown is four hours away from Russell’s home in Maryland. Nyambayar is originally from Mongolia but trains out of Los Angeles, so his cheering section might be light. However, don’t be surprised if he wins over fans with his performance.

Russell is a known quantity. He holds victories over newly crowned IBF super featherweight titleist Jojo Diaz and Jhonny Gonzalez but lost a majority decision to Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2014. Russell is battle-tested but lacks a signature win.

The betting odds are on Russell’s side. According to the Sportsbook Review, Nyambayar is hovering around 3-1 odds as the underdog. While the money favors Russell, there are plenty of reasons to like Nyambayar’s chances in this matchup.

Russell has a significant edge in professional boxing experience over Nyambayar. He has been at this for 11 years, but Nyambayar was a bigger star as an amateur. Russell won numerous national amateur titles, was successful on the world stage, and was an Olympian, but Nyambayar accomplished more.

During his amateur career, Nyambayar was a silver medalist at the World Championships in 2009 and the 2012 London Olympics. He’s a world-class athlete that has a high ceiling.

Nyambayar enjoys a size advantage over Russell. At 5-foot-8, Nyambayar is 4 inches taller than Russell. His 66-inch reach is 2 inches longer than Russell’s. Size isn’t the essential element in a fight, but it can make a difference.

When comparing their styles, Russell seems like the slicker boxer, but he’s no Floyd Mayweather Jr. defensively. He lacks shoulder movement and plants his feet too often. He needs to be more mobile against the taller Nyambayar, but it’s hard to change your style at 31 years old.

Nyambayar isn’t the most deceptive boxer either, but his power allows him to trade with opponents. He has an 81 percent KO rating compared to Russell’s 58 percent. That statistic is a bit misleading considering Russell’s extensive résumé and experience, but Nyambayar has one-punch knockout power.

Russell has faster hands than Nyambayar, but he’s going to have a harder time than usual connecting with punches because he has to be cautious of Nyambayar’s power. Russell’s southpaw stance could give Nyambayar problems, but Nyambayar’s long right cross could make his night easier.

Russell and Nyambayar share a common opponent in Oscar Escandon. Russell knocked Escandon out in round 7 in 2017. Nyambayar took him out in round 3 in 2018. Styles make fights, and a comparison against one opponent doesn’t equate to an edge, but Nyambayar had a much easier time.

Escandon was able to hit both Nyambayar and Russell.  Both took his shots well, but Nyambayar’s power caused a dent in Escandon’s armor at a quicker rate. If Russell tries to trade with Nyambayar, he’s in for a rude awakening. He’s faster than Nyambayar, but not enough to land multiple punches without taking some punishment in return.

During their final press conference, Russell said, “If it were up to me, I’d be facing Leo Santa Cruz or Gervonta Davis, but this is what I have to face. I’m here to defend my title in style once again.”

It’s nice that Russell wants to fight the best, but Nyambayar might prove to be too tall an order. This fight will go that distance, but FanSided is picking Nyambayar to upset Russell via a close decision. Russell is a great boxer, but Nyambayar’s abilities and physical advantages should land the verdict in his favor.

Judging is an inexact science, but don’t be surprised if Nyambayar’s hand is raised in victory.

Related Story. Gary Russell Jr. vs. Nyambayar: Press conference. light

Russell vs. Nyambayar goes down on Saturday, Feb. 8, on Showtime beginning at 9 p.m. ET.