After months of “hype” and extraordinary promotion, the long-awaited clash of the titans between the showman of the rings Tyson Fury and the giant of mixed martial arts Francis Ngannou takes place on Saturday in Riyadh. While boxing fans impatiently await the unification fight between Fury and the Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk scheduled for December, the Briton prefers to have fun with Francis Ngannou for this clash, undoubtedly much more lucrative, which should deliver the title of the “Baddest Man on the Planet” (“the baddest man in the world”).
The event, whether we consider it a real challenge, entertainment, or even a farce, indeed sees the two current alpha males of combat sports pitted against each other. On one side, the British Tyson Fury, 35 years old, known as the “Gipsy King”, a 2.06m force of nature, undefeated in 34 fights and holder of the WBC heavyweight belt. On the other, Cameroonian Francis Ngannou, 37, aka the “Predator”, a formidable puncher who started from nothing to reach the heights of the UFC, the most prestigious MMA league in the world. The fight will not be an exhibition, both camps insist, since it will be contested according to the official rules of professional boxing. But the media interest surrounding the event is undoubtedly inversely proportional to its sporting significance, Ngannou being a novice in the rings.
“I think the fight was organized primarily for money before the sporting challenge,” Chris Genachte, former MMA coach and now analyst and commentator, explains to AFP. “I imagine that we would easily approach the $100 million purse on one side or the other.” For the Briton, who starts with a considerable advantage, a defeat would be a humiliation. “If I lose, I will never be able to show my face in public again. (...) People are going to make fun of me and people are going to throw it in my face forever,” he declared before the mega-fight. But “I have no doubt about the fact that I will knock out this big guy”, underlined the Briton during the press conference on Thursday, which turned into a comedy due to the presence of John, the extroverted patriarch of the Fury clan.
With this foray into a ring, Ngannou realizes his dream: competing in a professional boxing match against one of the best in the world. Because before devoting himself to MMA, it was English boxing that he dreamed of. The Cameroonian took this fight seriously to try to compete with Fury and surrounded himself with boxing legend Mike Tyson to perfect his technique. “I don't know if Fury is nervous, but he has every reason to be,” said Tyson, who thinks his protégé can create a surprise thanks to his formidable punching power.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the MMA fighter is indeed the man who delivers the most powerful punches on earth. “If he punches Fury in the jaw, he’ll knock him out. No one survives,” Tyson emphasized. For Chris Genachte, “over the first 2-3 rounds, we can have this glimmer of hope that Francis Ngannou surprises Tyson Fury with a strike and ends the fight like that. But if it goes beyond the third round, the probability decreases drastically and Tyson Fury will be more and more comfortable dominating Francis Ngannou,” he continues.
And Usyk in all this? The Ukrainian should be in the front row on Saturday, even if he finds the holding of this fight absurd. “Isn’t it strange that instead of choosing a top 10 guy, he chooses someone who has never boxed before?” asked the WBA, WBO and IBF champion, who is preparing to face Fury in December. Fury's response: “I have to take care of this big sausage first (Ngannou, editor's note). And when I have grilled it well, I will move on to the next one.
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