Fury’s commitment in the Ngannou fight?

Photo of Fery and Ngannou in their upcoming game in Saudi Arabia

Tyson Fury is teetering on the edge of legendary status, a fact that’s almost beyond dispute. He might even be stepping into the conversation of all-time great heavyweight boxers. The WBC champion has sealed a deal to face Oleksandr Usyk from Ukraine, who possesses the three other major belts in the division, in an historic undisputed bout scheduled to happen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

This clash, tentatively planned for December 23, will determine the first heavyweight boxer to hold all four major world titles and cement their status as a contemporary great. Nevertheless, before this momentous face-off, there’s a significant hurdle for Fury to clear: Francis Ngannou, a 6-foot-4 French-Cameroonian heavyweight weighing in at over 18 stone.

At 35 years old, Fury is set to square off against former UFC champion Ngannou this Saturday, though his WBC title won’t be on the line, as it marks Ngannou’s inaugural boxing match at the age of 37. Viewed purely from a boxing perspective, this bout should be a straightforward task for ‘The Gypsy King.’

“In any phase of Tyson Fury’s career, he wouldn’t have considered Ngannou as a sparring partner. This emphasizes just how uncomplicated this fight should be for him,” as noted by former world champion Barry Jones on the 5 Live Boxing podcast.

Nevertheless, with just about eight weeks to prepare for the career-defining clash with Usyk – the most highly anticipated match in the world of boxing – delivering a lackluster performance or, even worse, suffering an unforeseeable loss to a newcomer, would be a severe blow to the reputation of the Morecambe fighter.

With such high stakes in the balance, the question lingers: How seriously will Fury approach the Ngannou challenge? The trend of prominent boxing superstars engaging in lucrative crossover matches is well-established.

On June 26, 1976, the iconic Muhammad Ali, who held the undisputed heavyweight championship, participated in an unconventional bout against Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. This event quickly turned into a spectacle due to confusion surrounding the rules. Inoki spent the majority of the match on his back, occasionally kicking at Ali, who held onto Inoki’s legs. Ultimately, the bout ended in a draw.

In a more recent and perhaps the most notable crossover bout, the accomplished boxer Floyd Mayweather faced off against UFC’s Conor McGregor six years ago, marking Mayweather’s final professional fight. It’s worth noting that Ali’s contest was not a traditional boxing match and didn’t attempt to be one.

In contrast, Mayweather, no longer a reigning champion, sought one last substantial payday as a professional. Nevertheless, both Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou currently find themselves at the pinnacle of their respective careers.

Ngannou has seized this opportunity, potentially at the expense of a more deserving and ranked boxer. The integrity of boxing is at risk, and it falls on Fury to demonstrate that the disparity between an elite-level boxer and an MMA champion is substantial.

Fury has indicated that he spent 12 weeks in training camp for this fight, in contrast to dedicating only “five or six” weeks of preparation before facing Deontay Wilder and Dillian Whyte.

“I might deliver an expert and polished boxing performance, ensuring that my opponent can’t land a single punch on me,” Fury stated during his grand arrival on Tuesday. “Picture this – I might even start dancing, employing a triple jab like Apollo Creed, moving around, and utilizing a hit-and-move strategy.”

Will it evolve into a flashy display with limited genuine competition?

There is still uncertainty regarding whether the Fury-Ngannou matchup will be officially sanctioned as a professional fight, but the pre-fight preparations exude the ambiance of a genuine boxing competition. The WBC has even introduced a special ‘Riyadh champion’ belt for the winner.

Saudi Arabia has rolled out the red carpet with all the customary fight week extravagances, including grand arrivals, open workouts, press conferences, and weigh-ins.

Nonetheless, Fury is the epitome of an athlete and entertainer. His venture into the scripted world of WWE netted him a reported £12m. He takes center stage in his own reality TV show, “At Home With The Furys,” and has even collaborated with Robbie Williams on a Christmas single.

Perhaps the more straightforward and entertaining approach would be to regard the match as an exhibition. Natasha Jonas, the current unified light-welterweight champion, suggests that “even Tyson might not know” his game plan until the opening bell rings.

“Tyson will follow his own path,” Jonas remarks. “He hasn’t portrayed himself as flawless, so no matter his approach, people will say, ‘That’s Tyson; we expect that from him.’ “He can be serious or light-hearted. He can be contradictory. He’s unpredictable, but as fans, we comprehend and anticipate that.”

“Establish your supremacy in the ring against Ngannou.” Following more than a year of fruitless negotiations and extended exchanges of words, traditional boxing aficionados harbor doubts about the realization of the Fury-Usyk match.

These enthusiasts would perceive it as inexcusable if Fury were to incur an injury or cut that could imperil or postpone the eagerly awaited boxing encounter, especially given that it’s a non-title bout often criticized as primarily driven by financial motives.

Fury has consistently stressed that financial gains hold greater importance for him than aspirations of creating a lasting legacy. With the sizeable payday from the Usyk fight in mind, Fury might opt to limit his engagement with Ngannou or seek a swift finish to reduce the risk of injury.

Usyk is anticipated to be present at ringside, yet Fury asserts that he is not underestimating Ngannou. When comparing Ngannou to his past adversaries, British boxers Derek Chisora and Whyte, Fury noted, “He likely possesses a comparable level of punching power and talent.”

Fury further stated, “I have a formidable challenge ahead, and once I handle it effectively, we can shift our focus to the next one.”

Natasha Jonas, who recently made history by becoming the first Black woman to obtain a manager’s license from the British Boxing Board of Control, recommends that Fury view the Ngannou bout as preparation for his upcoming fight with Usyk later this year.

“If I were managing Tyson, I’d advise him to shake off any ring rust and get a few rounds under his belt,” she suggested. “Every now and then, I’d urge Tyson to assert his dominance. Then, truly demonstrate that this is boxing and convincingly dispatch his opponent. Show that you reign as the king of the ring.”


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