Widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight of this generation, Tyson Fury has a historic unification bout with Oleksandr Usyk on the horizon but instead he will travel to Saudi Arabia this weekend to take on former UFC champion Francis Ngannou in combat sport’s latest ‘crossover’ offering.
The event is being billed as the ‘Battle of the Baddest’ with two heavyweight champions, albeit from different sports, coming together to find out who will reign supreme. With a record of 33-0-1 (24KO) and the current WBC champion, Fury is the obvious favourite against an opponent who is making his professional boxing debut. On paper, this fight should never be allowed but the circus sells and the idea of two prime heavyweight athletes clashing is attractive but the reality of this situation paints a completely different picture.
Fury understands exactly what this weekend is, it’s an opportunity to earn an astronomical amount of money (reported to be $50,000,000) and to grow his fame even further. It’s a step away from elite competition but he has reached a point in his career where he has enough power and notoriety to call his own shots and he knows the major competition lies down the road.
Just like Fury, Francis Ngannou also understands why he is in Saudi Arabia. He stepped away from the UFC almost two years ago as the reigning heavyweight champion and was public with his desire to earn as much money as possible. He made no attempt to hide the fact that he believes he was underpaid during his time in MMA so the fact he has chased down this crossover event to earn a career high payday should not be a surprise.
From humble beginnings in Cameroon to the top of the biggest promotion in MMA, the story of Francis Ngannou is something to be celebrated and during his time in UFC, Ngannou was electric. As a devastating knockout puncher, under MMA rules, he quickly become a star and was fast tracked towards a title shot and captured the belt in March 2021.
After winning the title, the problems between the UFC and Ngannou began and he only made one defence before leaving the promotion after a very public fall out. The 37-year-old did sign an MMA deal with growing promotion PFL but his eyes were firmly set on boxing and on Saturday night, he will finally capture the huge payday he has craved for many years.
Saudi Arabia have wasted no expense this weekend with a host of former champions from both MMA and boxing being flown in to promote the event. Rumours that the ring will rise from a 20ft hole in the ground before the opening bell have only added to the idea of the circus but the competitive edge will take over once the bell starts, especially for Fury.
The reality is the longer this fight goes on, the more people will give Francis Ngannou credit and as the heavyweight champion, Fury can’t afford that. Fighting a novice, who would not even be allowed to spar him in a competitive camp, Fury will need to assert dominance straight away to avoid any embarrassment.
Ngannou can punch but under different rules. He is not a boxer with great skill and once Fury entertains the fans for a few rounds, this one should come to an early conclusion. Less than five completed is the bet here. (4/5)
The main event is a novelty contest but the undercard has some competitive fights. The one that catches the eye is between British contenders Fabio Wardley (16-0) and David Adeleye (12-0). Interestingly, this fight will create history as the first British title fight to ever take place abroad and the two fighters are matched exceptionally well.
With both still early in their career, they deserve credit for taking an opportunity like this and much to the delight of the fans, the bad blood has built between them in the build-up. Wardley is the fighter who comes into this weekend with more experience on the big stage and although he doesn’t have a deep amateur pedigree, he has improved with every fight as a professional and that looks like a trend that can continue here.
Both men can improve from this, regardless of result but it’s the experience of Fabio Wardley that appeals most. Fabio Wardley to win by decision is worth small interest at (4/1).
BACK Less than five completed rounds in Fury vs Ngannou 2pts at 4/5 (⭐
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BACK Fabio Wardley to win by decision 1pt at 4/1 (⭐
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PROFIT/LOSS (OCT 2023): LOSS -16.35 points