LONDON, UK – Top Rank boxing boss Bob Arum has said that former UFC champion Francis Ngannou’s ring debut against heavyweight world titlist Tyson Fury will be “a hell of a lot better” than its critics believe, adding that the Cameroonian’s MMA performances are evidence that he has a chance against the unbeaten Englishman.
In his first contest in professional pugilism, Ngannou will be taking arguably the toughest challenge available to current heavyweight boxers. The 37-year-old left the UFC as a champion in January and is expected to make millions in Riydah on October 28, when he will attempt to achieve what the likes of Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder have failed to manage by beating the reliably slippery 6ft 7in Fury – a prospect few purists are relishing as a sporting spectacle.
“This will be not only be a massive event in a great country in a great place that’s emerging as the entertainment capital, but a significantly interesting fight that people will be talking about for years and decades to come,” predicted Arum, sitting next to Ngannou at the opening promotional event for a crossover bout that has drawn cynicism in some quarters.
— Sporting News Fights (@sn_fights) September 7, 2023
“This is going to be one of the most exciting events that any of us willl have the opportunity to watch. It’s a privilege for all of us to be associated with the event.
“It will be a momentous fight but, more importantly, it will be a historic event for Riyadh and combat sports long after myself and all of you out there are gone.
“You know, a lot of you writers out there say that Francis comes from a different discipline and he has no chance going in with a top boxer like Fury. What I suggest is: go look at the tapes of Francis’ UFC fights and see if you are convinced that he has no chance.”
New Professional Fighters League signing Ngannou is rightly revered in MMA, winning 13 of his 15 UFC fights on a run only interrupted in 2018, when he suffered successive decision defeats. He is working on his ring skills with boxing legend Mike Tyson and still holds a record he set in 2018 for the hardest punch in the world.
MORE: Francis Ngannou and Tyson Fury talk MMA and boxing, Mike Tyson and Oleksandr Usyk
“It’s clear that Francis has not had experience, although he’s training diligently,” said Arum. “But the son of a gun – I’ve watched the UFC tapes and I’ve not seen anyone hit with the power that Francis does. I have never seen anyone with the power – whether it’s boxing or MMA – that Francis has. It will be a hell of a lot better than some of the boxing writers are predicting.”
The obvious riposte to Arum’s assertions is that Fury has beaten feared punchers before, most notably when he was knocked down twice each time in his first and third fights with Wilder, including a 12th-round flooring during their initial meeting when he narrowly beat the count after appearing to be flat-out on his back.
“I haven’t felt Francis’ power, so I don’t know,” Fury responded when he was asked whether his opponent’s colossal punching worries him. “Is it going to be so much different to any heavyweight I’ve ever fought? Probably not. Will it bounce off me? Probably so, because I’m bulletproof.
???????????? ???????????????????????? ???????? ???????????? ???????????????????????????? ????
— Boxing on TNT Sports (@boxingontnt) September 7, 2023
“So many people have tried knocking me out before or beating me. I’ve heard all the bulls*** before. Good luck to him. “
Fury added the obvious conclusion that boxing does not depend on dynamite power – a reality Arum and Ngannou acknowledged. “We know that everybody in the heavyweight division can knock everybody out,” said Ngannou, promising it would be “lights off” for Fury if he connects with a shot.
“You don’t need to have a tremendous power. I’m going there to fight, hit and not get hit. I’m taking it very seriously in all components of the discipline.”
Fury’s promoter, Frank Warren, opened the event with emphatic praise for organisers in Saudi Arabia. He then called the fight “the biggest event I’ve ever been involved with” and said he expects it to be “very, very special.”
“After this, you’re going to get all these special events [in Saudi Arabia],” he said, explaining that the winner’s specially-created Riyadh belt will be repeatedly fought for in future.
“Tyson Fury is the most entertaining and the best fun as a heavyweight since Muhammad Ali. Wherever he goes, he brings excitement, he brings people. This man [Ngannou] is going to try to come and take his head off.”