Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou: Boxing can turn to serious business after 'joke-shop' fight

Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou: Boxing can turn to serious business after 'joke-shop' fight

Since Anthony Joshua was beaten for a second time by Oleksandr Usyk in the summer of 2022, heavyweight boxing has been all about the fights which have not materialised.

There were false starts and seemingly false promises about Joshua facing Tyson Fury, and latterly Fury coming up against Usyk.

At long last, though, something tangible is on the horizon. An agreement for Fury to fight Usyk has finally been reached, and that bout is now pencilled in for December 23.

“Usyk has to fight me in December, doesn’t have a choice,” Fury said this week. “He signed the contract, so if he doesn’t, he gets sued.”

First, though, a boxing mismatch. Fury faces Francis Ngannou in a contest billed as the Battle of the Baddest. Carl Froch was among those a tad more disparaging in his pre-fight billing, calling it a “joke-shop fight”. The former super-middleweight champion is right in saying “it’s not boxing”, as Fury, whose WBC title is not on the line, comes up against former UFC heavyweight champion Ngannou.

The clash has come with a promotional machine in overdrive, and punters seem to be buying into it, despite one of the sport’s more technically gifted boxers taking on a fighter more used to using his feet in the ring.

The first, rather slick promotional film for the fight showed Fury and Ngannou training in neighbouring facilities and has had more than 150 million views.

A music video featuring Ngannou supposedly training in a cave in the desert has gone similarly viral having been posted by Cristiano Ronaldo, although one wonders what lies in his footballing contract to talk up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the fight takes place.

In addition, Ngannou finds himself being trained by the once dominant fighter of the heavyweight division, Mike Tyson. Plus, Tyson Fury was filmed in an England shirt cheering the national rugby team ahead of their semi-final defeat to South Africa, all of it aimed at getting people to cough up the £21.95 for this pay-per-view offering.

Promoter Frank Warren has been keen to talk up Ngannou’s power in an attempt to give the fight a semblance of jeopardy.

“There’s a massive buzz about it,” said Warren. “The reason for that is it’s a one-off event. You’ve got the best of two disciplines which is unique.

“Do I think Ngannou will beat him? No, I don’t think anyone beats Tyson in a boxing ring. He’s not going to outbox him. He will take Tyson out of his stride and roughhouse him.”

Fury has claimed that he will be “disappointed” if the pair do not go toe-to-toe from the first bell, claiming he is in good enough shape to last 25 rounds. That will not be necessary, with only 10 rounds scheduled, and Warren would prefer things to be wrapped up even sooner than that.

“I hope he gets it over and done quickly,” Warren said. “The quicker he gets it done, the quicker we can look into the future.”

Fury’s ring craft ought to comfortably be enough to keep his rival at bay tomorrow night in Riyadh, and the sport and the division can then finally turn its focus to an undisputed showdown.