WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury faces a threat unlike any he’s encountered before when he welcomes former UFC champion Francis Ngannou to the boxing ring in a seismic superfight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Card starts at 7 PM SA time
Tyson Fury (1.06) v Francis Ngannou (8.25) (Heavyweight)
It’s a colossal crossover bout, the biggest since Floyd Mayweather beat UFC megastar Conor McGregor via 10th-round TKO in 2017.
Like McGregor back then, Ngannou is making his boxing debut against one of the greatest of all time and is a massive underdog in the titanic non-title tilt scheduled for 10 rounds.
Does he have a chance? Any pugilist, especially of the heavyweight variety, has a puncher’s chance, but it’ll be one of if not the biggest upset in boxing history if Ngannou gets it done.
To do so, he has to knockout Fury, a feat even the very best boxers of his generation have been unable to achieve. That includes the iconic Wladimir Klitschko, who Fury defeated in the Ukrainian’s prime in 2015, and Deontay Wilder, the hardest-hitting and most prolific knockout artist in heavyweight boxing history.
Fury famously rose off the canvas like the Undertaker after having fallen victim to a crushing combination from Wilder in the 12th round of their first fight and finished the epic encounter on a high note before going on to stop the American in their next two battles.
Yes, “The Gypsy King” is not only the most elusive heavyweight since Muhammad Ali but also boasts a superhuman chin. Even the six-foot-nine Brit, though, won’t be able to take a clean punch from Ngannou, who holds the world record for the hardest punch ever thrown – a haymaker he unleashed at the UFC Performance Institute in 2017 that registered at 129,161 units.
Shedding more light on this, UFC president Dana White said of Ngannou’s superhuman striking power at the time: “His punches are equivalent to 96 horsepower. That’s equal to getting hit by a Ford Escort going as fast as it can and it’s more powerful than a 12-pound sledgehammer from full force overhead.”
The most terrorising knockout artist in UFC history, “The Predator” crushed Stipe Miocic to capture the heavyweight title in 2021 and retained it against previously undefeated Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 the following year before vacating the belt and leaving the promotion to pursue a fight against Fury.
That decision win over Gane last January took his mixed martial arts record to 17-3 with 12 knockouts and four submissions and on top of making the switch to the sweet science, he might well be rusty as far as fight intensity and sharpness are concerned.
Even in the MMA world, the Cameroon-born colossus is a brawler rather than a technical striker. He’s refined his striking over the years, however, he still won’t win any style points. Not that it matters. The six-foot-four muscle-bound behemoth’s brand of violence has served him incredibly well.
His awkwardness in boxing terms will help rather than hinder him in his quest to do the seemingly impossible. It makes him a danger of a different kind to Fury with his punches coming from non-traditional angles that’ll take close watching and figuring out.
Mike Tyson, the man Fury’s name after, has been working with Ngannou to prepare him for the fight and the different pacing of a boxing bout, which in this case is 10 three-minute rounds as opposed to MMA fights, which are three or five five-minute rounds.
Even with his awkwardness, Ngannou’s chances of landing a killshot are slim. Fury’s a fleet-footed, towering technician who has the uncanny ability to dissect opponents in a myriad of ways. A giant of a man, he moves like a light heavyweight and utilises every bit of his 85-inch reach to pummel his opponent.
Since emphatically closing out the legendary trilogy with Wilder, which saw him transform from a cerebral tactician to an aggressive pursuer, he stopped Dillian Whyte and, most recently, Derek Chisora last December to take his knockout streak to four and overall KO tally to 24 while extending his remarkable undefeated record to 33 wins with one draw (the first fight with Wilder).
With his masterful movement, hand speed, fight IQ and precision punching, Fury will have little trouble stopping a game but outclassed Ngannou in the first half of the fight.