Days after news dropped that Tyson Fury was “expected” to face former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, the pair are officially set to lock hands “under the official rules of professional boxing” on October 28th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The press release does not reveal the number of rounds or whether Fury’s (33-0-1, 24 KO) WBC title will be on the line. I do also want to point out that the press release states that the bout will be under pro boxing rules “with 3 judges ringside adopting the 10-point must system,” but doesn’t outright say it’s a professional boxing match. Maybe that’s implied, but insisting that the fight “will take place in a regulation boxing ring under the standard boxing rules” sounds like someone trying very hard to not technically lie.
Whatever the case, the two are going to punch each other in some capacity, so let’s talk about that.
While Ngannou (17-3 MMA) entered the UFC in 2015 with more submissions than knockouts under his belt, but soon emerged as the sport’s premier puncher. Six consecutive Octagon wins, including one of the most brutal one-punch finishes ever against Alistair Overeem, set the stage for a shot at heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
Though he buzzed Miocic early, Ngannou’s lack of technique and poor gas tank allowed Miocic to steadily grind him down in the last four rounds, holding Ngannou to just six landed significant strikes in that span. Ngannou was heavily favored to rebound against fellow slugger Derrick Lewis, only for the pair to land a combined 31 strikes in 15 minutes and produce one of the modern era’s biggest stinkers.
Then, with his back against the wall, Ngannou got his mojo back. He smoked the very capable Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, and Jair Rozenstruik in just under three minutes combined before violently avenging his loss to Miocic and fighting through gnarly knee injuries to wrestle his way past undefeated striker Ciryl Gane.
Afterwards, Ngannou got into a lengthy and public dispute with the UFC over fighter pay and exclusivity, ultimately leaving the promotion to join the likes of Claressa Shields in Professional Fighters League. Financially, at least, it seems the gambit will pay off better than he could have imagined. I’m genuinely happy for him.
Does he actually have a chance against Fury, though? Not really. He’s a chiseled 6’4” 260-pounder with an 83” reach and genuinely monstrous power, but he’s still not particularly fast or sharp on the feet. I figure he’s got less than three rounds to potentially chin “The Gypsy King” before Fury’s movement and smothering tactics sap him mentally and physically.
Still, the sheer firepower involved makes it more interesting than Mayweather vs McGregor, at least.
Tyson Fury: “As soon as that bell goes, it’ll be bombs away! This guy is supposed to be the hardest puncher in the world, but let’s see how he reacts when he gets hit by the Big GK. I can’t wait to get back out there under the lights. 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. Francis looked tough when he jumped in the ring after the Whyte fight, but there is no one tougher than me, and you’ll all see that in devastating fashion on October 28. I’d like to thank my promoters Frank Warren and Bob Arum, my manager Spencer Brown and the guys at Riyadh Season for making this incredible event possible. It’s going to be a fight for the ages. Get up!”
Francis Ngannou: “I’ve been waiting to meet Tyson in the ring for the past three years. 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. I’d like to thank Riyadh Season and my team at 3Point0 Labs for helping put this event together. All I will say to Tyson for now is he better dance in that ring because if I touch him, he’s going to sleep.”