Organizers wouldn’t dare try to sell the pay-per-view fight between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou on Oct. 28 in Saudi Arabia as a good matchup on paper.
It clearly isn’t. Fury, a veteran of almost 15 years, is the best heavyweight in the world while Ngannou, a 37-year-old MMA star, will be making his boxing debut. It’s among the biggest mismatches in the history of heavyweight boxing.
The promoters were straightforward when they described at a news conference Thursday what this matchup is, however. Co-promoters Bob Arum and Frank Warren used the exact same term: “This is a massive event.”
“This is a massive event around the world, but it’s particularly massive in the United States because MMA has become one of the most popular sports there and Francis Ngannou is a legend in that sport,” Arum said at the news conference.
“And Tyson has performed so admirably in the United States over the past few years that he is a massive figure in sports. The fact that they’re both coming together is something that is creating tremendous interest in the United States.”
Said Warren: This is the biggest event I’ve ever been involved with. It’s a crossover event. You’ve got a guy who is the best in his discipline. He is the heavyweight champion. And you’ve got the man, the lineal champion, Tyson Fury, who has done everything you can ask for in a fighter. …
“This is going to be something special.”
For his part, Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) tried to build up his opponent.
The Englishman expressed respect for his Cameroonian opponent and pointed out potential pitfalls when the opening bell rings, making reference to what he expects to be an unusual style and Ngannou’s size. The native of Cameroon is 6-foot-4 and weighed 257 pounds for his last fight, against Ciryl Gane in January of last year. (Fury is 6-9, around 270.)
“He’s going to be a real challenge,” Fury said. “It’s something different for me. I’m used to boxing boxers and boxing the head off of somebody. But fighting an MMA guy who comes in with a different style is going to be different. …
“I will give Francis the respect that he deserves as a warrior, as a man and as a world champion. He’s a big man. He’s very strong and powerful. And it’s in my interest to give it the 100 percent training in camp and bring in the best sparring possible for me.”
Meanwhile, Ngannou said in so many words that he won the lottery.
He will make by far the biggest payday of his career, which made accepting this fight a no-brainer in spite of the long odds. And while he made his name in mixed martial arts, he has wanted to box for as long as he can remember.
“I am very excited. I am very happy,” he said. “I have been dreaming of becoming a boxer since I was a kid. And today, I’m not just going to box; I’m going to box the guy at the peak of the mountain. Usually, I would not pay attention to what is going around. But this thing is so big that I can’t stop thinking about it. History is going to be made. …
“Nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen, but what I do know for sure is that I’m going to be out there hunting for that guy’s head to take it off. I can guarantee that.”