IT’S ON. Boxing and MMA’s best are set to go head to head with the announcement that WBC heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury will fight former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia in October.
For once, this is not a (completely) contrived contest of fists (see any of the Paul brothers fights). Rather, two legitimate, nay, esteemed combatants will meet in the ring in a bout to be fought under Queensberry (read: regulation boxing) rules.
“I can’t wait to get back out there under the lights,” Fury said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to showing the world that The Gypsy King is the greatest fighter of his generation in an epic battle with another master of his craft.”
Ngannou meanwhile, said: “My dream was always to box, and to box the best. After becoming the undisputed MMA Heavyweight Champion, this is my opportunity to make that dream come true and cement my position as the baddest man on the planet.”
That last phrase is perhaps the most relevant here. Originally used to describe ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson in the ’80s, it’s a moniker Ngannou earned via his rampaging run through the UFC’s heavyweight division. The Cameroonian (20-3-3 in MMA) last competed in January 2022, when he retained his UFC heavyweight championship with an unanimous-decision victory over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270. After failing to reach terms on a contract extension, however, Ngannou left the UFC in January, robbing fans of a dream match-up with newly crowned heavyweight champion Jon Jones (more on him later), widely regarded as the UFC’s GOAT.
Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) needs no introduction, having ruled boxing’s heavyweight division for close to a decade, highlighted by an epic trilogy with Deontay Wilder. The 34-year-old Englishman returned for another trilogy with Derek Chisora in December, completing a 10th-round stoppage. He had been in talks to meet Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed heavyweight championship in April at London’s Wembley Stadium, but negotiations collapsed in March.
So, it looks like we have lawyers and subsequent contract disputes to thank for this fantasy match-up and while the odds will be very much in favour of Fury, as the boxer in the bout, Ngannou’s supreme punching power means he can’t completely be discounted, even by The Gypsy King. Here’s a look at why this curious cash grab might actually be worth watching.
Why are Francis Ngannou and Tyson Fury fighting?
In five words and one acronym: “C.R.E.A.M . . . dollar, dollar bill, y’all”. The famous 2017 clash between Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather was a licence to print money, drawing over 4.3m pay-per-view buys with the fighters reportedly raking in nearly $600m between them. This probably won’t do that kind of business but it will draw a tonne of (probably bloodshot) eyeballs.
How is Ngannou v Fury different from recent exhibition fights?
In comparison to fights involving the Paul brothers (Jake and Logan) this fight sees two of the best in their respective sports clash while still being close to their primes. Ngannou, (36) a pure striker renowned for his punching power, has always harboured boxing ambitions. Fury is arguably the best heavyweight boxer of the modern era. Their resumes are as formidable as their reputations.
Does Ngannou actually have a shot at beating fury?>
Probably not, but he’ll get rich trying. His biggest problem will be landing a glove on his taller opponent – at 6’ 9” Fury has python-like reach and is as evasive as an ex-premier at an ICAC hearing. Sure, it only takes one punch to fell tall timber, but as Wilder found out when he sent Fury to Disneyland for a few seconds back in their first fight in 2018, the Englishman not only has a granite jaw, but T-1000 powers of recovery.
Will Fury v Ngannou affect either fighter’s legacy?
Depends who wins. While it’s yet to be determined if the bout will count against their overall records, a loss for Fury against an opponent making his boxing debut would be embarrassing and ultimately besmirch his rather imperial legacy. For Ngannou, it would cement his claim as the ‘Baddest Man On The Planet’ (BMOTP).
What about Jon Jones? Where does he fit in here?
Having cemented his UFC GOAT status in the eyes of most fans (apologies to Aussie Alex Volkanovski) with his move up to heavyweight and subsequent demolition of Gane at UFC 285 back in March, Jones has developed an appetite for acronyms and would dearly love to add ‘BMOTP’ to his calling card. He desperately wanted to fight Ngannou – it was one of the reasons he moved up to heavyweight – before the Cameroonian left the UFC. Instead, he’s had to make do with a bout against Stipe Miocic at UFC 295 in November. But Ngannou has hinted that he may yet return to the UFC after he’s done boxing so perhaps there’s a chance this dream match-up materialises. The problem for Jones is that if Ngannou loses to Fury he probably loses the BMOTP-title, too. Maybe Jones could fight Fury at some point for one final pay day? Don’t bet against it: in this business, if it makes dollars, it makes sense.