They call it a ‘super’ fight, but it’s fair to say the reaction to Tyson Fury’s bout against UFC fighter Francis Ngannou has been nothing of the sort.
While Anthony Joshua is locking horns with Dillian Whyte, Oleksandr Usyk is taking on Daniel Dubois and Deontay Wilder is in talks to fight Andy Ruiz, Fury – the reigning WBC champion – looks only interested in side-stepping the competition and making easy money in the Middle East.
The Gypsy King has twice been in talks over huge fights in the last year only to see them crumble at the last minute and the fact he has now opted to face an MMA fighter in a crossover bout – while collecting Saudi millions – will infuriate fight fans who want to see him taking on the best.
After inviting Joshua to challenge for his WBC belt in November, Fury set countless deadlines for his British rival while both teams were in the thick of negotiations, before he called a halt to any prospect of the fight taking place.
And earlier this year, he appeared nailed-on to face Usyk for all the heavyweight belts to determine the first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999.
Tyson Fury will face ex-UFC champion Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on October 28
The Gypsy King failed to secure two big fights and is instead taking a big Middle East payday
Even after Usyk agreed to a 70-30 split in Fury’s favour – despite holding more belts than him – he still came up with excuses and tried to remove the match clause from the contract before the fight was called off.
In the months that followed that disappointment, Fury has teased us about ‘massive’ fight news on social media, saying news of a ‘monstrous’ fight was on the way. That was back in April.
‘Got some massive, massive news coming,’ he said on his Instagram story.
‘An imminent fight date, an absolutely monstrous fight. Keep tuned, because the WBC world heavyweight king is back in action, coming very very soon. Peace out.’
Three months later, we learn he is not only delaying his first fight of the year until October 28, but he is facing a fighter who has never fought in boxing before and with his WBC title not even on the line.
His rival Anthony Joshua has set up a big showdown with Dillian Whyte, yet Fury looks set to fight just once this year against someone who has never fought in boxing before
Whichever way you look at it, Fury does not come out looking good from this – not when he’s passed up the opportunity to give the fans what they want with two epic match-ups going begging.
With everyone else seemingly making things happen and setting up exciting fights, Fury comes across as looking more interested in making money.
And Fury has repeatedly stressed he is not interested in cash when it comes to boxing. Only in December, he said he cared more about keeping active and his ‘lifestyle’ – before moments later contradicting himself, saying he would only consider an ‘obscene’ amount of money for his next fight.
‘It’s not really about the money or all that s***,’ he told iFL before facing Dereck Chisora last year.
‘It was about the money at the beginning but when you have got plenty of money it is more about keeping active and keeping a lifestyle going.’
He then added: ‘Let me tell you all of these men I don’t care who it is, wherever I can get the most money for my next fight I will fight even if it is at middleweight.
He also passed up the opportunity to face Oleksandr Usyk (L) in undisputed heavyweight bout, and the Ukrainian is now facing off against Daniel Dubois (R)
‘Wherever the biggest money is that is where we will go. All of them are the same they are boxing men with arms and legs. So if someone wants to pay me an obscene amount of money to fight somebody then it’s game on.
‘I have boxed for absolutely f*** all in the past so I am sure I will box for an obscene amount won’t I?’
Yes this fight will do big pay-per-view numbers and yes it’s exciting when two worlds collide, as we saw with Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in 2017.
The difference with that is that Floyd was at the end of his career at the age of 40 years of age with 49 straight victories from his storied and unbeaten career.
Fury is still only 34 and still has mountains to conquer. He might claim to be – but cannot say he is the greatest boxer alive when he hasn’t taken out Usyk and collected the rest of his heavyweight belts.
Not to mention that if he doesn’t face Joshua at some point in his career – whether a belt is on the line or not – it could prove to be one of his biggest regrets. And the fans won’t forgive him for it. That is the biggest British dust-up that every boxing enthusiast is desperate to see.
Ngannou is the big winner from this – as he is set for his biggest career payday with Saudi millions set to trump the £600k he made from fighting Ciryl Gane last year
Fury said his fight with Ngannou would determine ‘the baddest man on the planet’, but beating the UFC icon will do nothing for his profile or standing in the sport.
For Ngannou, however, taking this first is a smart play.
The Cameroonian – a former heavyweight world champion in the UFC – is one of the most respected fighters in MMA but now has a chance to test himself against one of the best boxers in the world.
He has been calling out the likes of Fury and Joshua in recent years and now has exactly what he wants, as well as the most lucrative fight purse he has ever received.
In Ngannou’s biggest ever fight against Ciryl Gane last year, he pocketed just £600,000. Fury’s biggest payday, by comparison, was the £25m he landed from facing Dillian Whyte.
It’s no wonder he decided to walk away from the UFC and sign a flexible deal with the Professional Fighters League, even though he insisted that decision was down to ‘freedom not money’.
The Cameroonian left the UFC for more freedom – now he has a lucrative fight on his hands and the chance to shock one of the world’s best boxers
‘It doesn’t matter how much [money] is in that contract, I am not free,’ he said in January this year.
‘I really wished it could work out, I always saw myself in the UFC. But it’s a matter of principle. Money is a part of it but its not all about money.
‘In the perfect world I go out there in a boxing match and come back to MMA. If I get the opportunity to fight all those tough guys [Fury and Joshua] in boxing, I would take it,’ he said.
He finally has his wish and is set to make millions from this fight in Saudi Arabia, where he will hope to show his destructive power – and prove he’s not just there for a payday and an easy Fury walkover.
During his time in the UFC, Ngannou proved himself as a prolific knockout artist – earning him the nickname ‘Predator’ – becoming famed for brutal stoppages of Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem.
He is said to possess a world record for the hardest punch ever recorded in 2018 – after being invited to test his power by sports training firm Athlete Fit. He ended up registering a striking power of 129,161 units on a PowerKube (which measures the power of a punch by analysing its force, speed and accuracy).
Ngannou is a hard-hitting fighter and reportedly holds the world record for the hardest punch
The last person that tried to overthrow the MMA star was the former World’s Strongest Man winner Eddie Hall, but he failed – with his opening attempt landing around the 91,000 mark. He later reached 93,000, then 98,000, before clearing 100,000 and peaking at 113,999 units.
UFC chief Dana White talked up that explosive punching power when introducing him for his fight against Miocic in 2018.
‘His punches are equivalent to 96 horsepower, he said. ‘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. Holy s***.’
That was confirmed by Joe Joyce’s manager Sam Jones, who saw the two spar at the UFC training centre in Vegas.
Jones said: ‘Let me tell you something about Ngannou – he can box at a high level.
Ngannou has been calling out the likes of Fury for some time – now he finally has a chance to boost his profile and shock the world
‘We were going to spar inside the cage – we had no problem doing that, as long as it was just boxing. But he said no, and he came to our gym in Vegas.
‘Ngannou was standing in a weird stance. Then just stood upright and started throwing huge bombs at Joe’s head! It took Joe a round to work him out.
‘Ngannou and Joe went eight rounds of holding their feet. It was the most entertaining spar I’ve ever seen Joe in. The hairs on the back of the neck stood up.’
Jones was then asked whether he believes Ngannou has the power to do damage to a heavyweight boxer, to which he replied: ‘Hell yes, his power is disgraceful!
‘They went to war. They traded right hands for fun. Ngannou was throwing his right hand from his boots!’
He will have the chance to test Fury with that mega punch on October 28 – though he may be somewhat disappointed there’s no title on the line.