Two of the biggest and best heavyweights of their era are going to collide in a boxing ring this Fall in Saudi Arabia. On Oct. 28, MMA icon Francis Ngannou and boxing megastar Tyson Fury will clash in a 10-round boxing match to determine who the best heavyweight in the world is.
There's just one problem, only one of these men is an actual boxer, and that's Fury. Listen, Ngannou is a great fighter, an MMA icon but he's not a boxer. At least not one anywhere near Fury's level. Yeah, if you want to argue that in a street fight Ngannou beats Fury pretty easily, I'd be on board with that claim, but this isn't a street fight. This is a boxing match, and Fury is undefeated in this sport.
Fury has beaten the breaks off of every great boxer he's ever stepped in the ring with. Ngannou? Despite wanting to be a boxer before he got into MMA, has never had a pro boxing bout in his career. Despite that, there are actually people who believe this is a super-fight of some kind. There's no reason why one should think that. This is no different than Tom Brady challenging Clayton Kershaw to a strike-out competition.
Yeah, both men throw balls, but that doesn't mean both men play the same sport or even have the same specific set of skills. Ngannou is going into the ring with one of the best unorthodox boxers there is. His head movement and reach are among the best in the game, and he's jabbed guys in the face with quick shots that remind people of an NBA star dribbling a basketball. His jabs are quick, violent, and relentless.
Ngannou struggles to deal with punchers in MMA, getting out-punched by Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis, and then having to grapple with Ciryl Gane just to avoid getting out-pointed. He's a great heavyweight striker, who can knock the head off of a statue, but that's in four-ounce gloves when he can use the clinch and the cage to his benefit.
But boxing gloves are heavier. They reduce the output of power that they can deliver. Ngannou is the big-home run swinging type of striker, he lays people out with one punch, not necessarily a barrage of strikes. He's a big name, sure, but he's drastically out-matched heading into this exhibition fight.
This fight will do neither man any justice. If Fury wins, cool, he should have. If Ngannou wins, then Fury's career is likely over. No one would take him seriously after being, in earnest, the first real boxer to lose to an MMA guy on their turf. The best MMA strikers in the world don't take to boxing that well. Look at Conor McGregor. Of all the guys to try out a different sport, none were more adept at the challenge than McGregor.
And we remember how that went.
If Ngannou knocks out Fury or beats him, that'd be huge for Ngannou, but if he gets pummelled, dropped, and dare I say, even stopped, it'll be hard for him to justify his star heading back to the PFL. Look at someone like CM Punk. He went from pro wrestling to MMA and flamed out. And while Punk is still a major name in pro wrestling with AEW, his image still has a bit of a black eye on it.
That'll happen to Ngannou if he has a bad outing. But, that's not the only big issue with the fight.
Tyson Fury should be fighting Oleksandr Usyk, not Francis Ngannou
Ngannou is the bigger name, but he's the lesser opponent. He'll make Fury money, but he'll also damage his reputation because now it looks like Fury is scared. Scared to fight an actual boxer who might even be the most technically sound of the heavier weight classes; Oleksandr Usyk.
Usyk is the fight to make for Fury, as far as his legacy goes. Usyk is the one guy that could beat Fury. Yes, Ngannou has that nasty power, but he's never adapted it to a boxing match before. When you don't need to worry about someone shooting at your legs to take you down, or a random high kick to the head, it becomes that much easier to anticipate and react.
Fury knows this. It's why he took the fight. The odds Ngannou lands an uppercut that puts Fury out is low, and we all know it. It's the easier fight and that makes Fury look weak, ducking clear competition from Usyk to fight Ngannou. Sure, it makes sense for Jake Paul to fight guys from MMA, he's not exactly the most skilled boxer. It makes sense for Floyd Mayweather to fight kickboxers because he's no longer in his prime.
Fury? There are no excuses. Win or lose, Fury looks bad.