Thursday, October 26, 2023

Fury-Ngannou Boxing's Latest Spectacle

In August 2017, the Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) worlds were consumed by a fight that was a legitimate mega event in terms of interest. This observer is referring to the encounter between Boxing Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather and two-division UFC world champion Connor McGregor, which took place in Las Vegas, NV and was one of the last successful pay-per-view attractions to draw a significant buyrate of over four million buys. The action in the ring that August evening favored the experienced boxer Mayweather, who stopped a very "Game" McGregor in ten rounds.

The Mayweather-McGregor fight followed a familiar pattern in the realm of combat sports. In that when a fighter from one combat sport ventures into another combat sport where they do not have experience in terms of that sport being their primary discipline, the results often are not favorable for that fighter and more often than not, such bouts tend to be regarded as mismatches when all is said and done. This has been seen in both spectrums in boxers venturing into MMA as future Hall of Famer James Toney did when he faced UFC Hall of Famer and two-division world champion Randy Couture and was quickly taken down to the canvas and submitted, and the aforementioned encounter between McGregor and Mayweather, held in Mayweather's realm, the Boxing ring. Although unlike Toney, McGregor was able to hold his own for a period of time in that fight, the results of both bouts were similar, the inexperienced fighter, who ventured into a different sport, ultimately being out classed and stopped by a fighter who's primary combat discipline was the format in which the fight was held. 

Despite those two clear and indisputable results, there still remains a fascination in "Boxing vs. MMA" bouts in both sports. Such an event will take place on Saturday, October 28th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as undefeated two-time Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, current holder of the WBC World Heavyweight championship, will face former UFC Heavyweight world champion Frances Ngannou in a bout that can be seen on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View in the United States. The scheduled ten round bout, is either an exhibition or an official bout depending on who one asks. One thing that can be confirmed is the WBC's version of the World Heavyweight championship will not be on the line in this bout. If this will indeed be an official professional bout, as Mayweather-McGregor was, it will mark Ngannou's debut as a professional boxer.

Obviously, the main selling point of this fight as almost all "Boxing vs. MMA" bouts can be summed up in one word, "Curiosity.* No matter how many times these types of bouts take place, no matter how lopsided the fights might be in favor of one fighter, there will always be the element of both "Curiosity" and "What If's" that will surround it. Despite the aforementioned examples of lopsided or one-sided outcomes in fights like this that have taken place in the past, there are also notable exceptions, which probably contribute in some way to the "Curiosity" and "What If's" prior to a fight such as this. 

Many will recall former WBO World Heavyweight champion Ray Mercer, who after a long and successful career as a boxer, ventured into the sport of MMA and scored a one punch knockout of former UFC Heavyweight world champion Tim Sylvia in 2009. Others are likely familiar with the careers of former Boxing world champions Troy Dorsey and Chris Algieri, two fighters who prior to their respective careers in professional Boxing, had won world championships as professional Kickboxers. While rare, a fighter being able to have success in more than one combat sport has been done before.

Will Frances Ngannou be able to add his name to that select list. One thing the former UFC Heavyweight world champion has going for him is in his MMA career, he has shown that he is extremely heavy-handed and has scored knockouts in ten of his seventeen career wins, most via punches. The question here is whether or not he will be able to use that punching power against a world-class boxer who just happens to be one of two fighters who has a legitimate claim to the World Heavyweight championship. While many MMA fighters do train in Boxing in preparation for their bouts as Boxing is after all a martial art, there is a difference between the two sports and even though nothing can be taken away from what Ngannou has been able to accomplish in his MMA career, this will be his first fight in a Boxing ring with a pair of Boxing gloves on and not the open-handed one ounce MMA gloves, which for all intents and purposes is one step away from fighting under Bareknuckle rules. It is indisputable that Ngannou has power in both hands, but the difference in skill level in terms of Boxing between his previous MMA opponents and a seasoned professional boxer as well as wearing eight ounce Boxing gloves are likely to play a factor here.

One must also keep in mind that Tyson Fury is a very elusive and awkward fighter that has deceptive punching power in both hands. Fury has also shown more than once they he can get up from being knocked down under circumstances where other fighters likely would not have gotten up, something that Ngannou has obviously yet to prove in terms of in a Boxing ring. Ngannou does have what could turn out to be an asset in his corner in the form of former two-time Heavyweight world champion and Hall of Famer Mike Tyson, the man who Tyson Fury was named after, as his trainer. Although some may feel the addition of Mike Tyson might be more for show, Tyson was groomed to be a fighter by the legendary late great Cus D'Amato,who taught him a style with an emphasis on head movement, hand speed, and punching power. With this being the first time that Tyson has been in the capacity of a trainer, it will be interesting to see what he has taught Ngannou in terms of implementing a Boxing style that might be effective. It is also worth noting that a major element of Tyson's Boxing education under D'Amato was significant film study sessions that also molded Tyson into one of the sport's noted historians. What makes this potentially noteworthy is that by learning through film study as well as other methods taught by D'Amato, Tyson was also exposed to a variety of styles in addition to the one that he was trained by D'Amato to use. Therefore, if Tyson has indeed been training Ngannou and this is not a mere publicity tactic to generate interest in this fight, one should not necessarily expect an attempt of implementing a style similar to what Tyson used in his prime. Tyson nevertheless is very knowledgeable on just about every known Boxing style and it would be wise for Ngannou to at minimum seek his advice.

As for Tyson Fury, it is questionable just how seriously he is taking this fight whether it is an exhibition or not. Why would there be questions regarding that? As some know, Fury recently signed a contract for a fight with undefeated WBO/IBF/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk for what would be for the Undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world. A fight that could be scheduled as soon as this coming December depending on both the outcome of this fight as well as any potential injuries that Fury might sustain. It might be possible based on the fact that Fury signed the contract before this fight takes place that he might be treating it lightly.

Whatever the case might be, whether this is an exhibition or not, the eyes of the combat sports world will nevertheless be focused on this event. It would be nice for a change considering that Boxing is a consistent target of ridicule if there was not anything negative that emerged from this fight. To go a step further, it would also be nice if we also saw a competitive contest, which is something that many are not expecting.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

Fury vs. Ngannou takes place on Saturday, October 28th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The fight as well as its undercard can be seen in the United States on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View  beginning at 2PM ET/11AM PT for $79.99. The card will also be available through traditional cable/satellite Telco providers. Contact your local cable/satellite provider for ordering information.

ESPN+ and select ESPN+ Pay-Per-View events are available through the ESPN app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/Smart TVs. To order this pay-per-view event through ESPN+ to watch on the device of your choice, download the ESPN app, find Fury vs. Ngannou in the Boxing section of upcoming programming and follow the instructions to order within the app or Click Here for both ordering information and for instructions on how to download the ESPN app on your streaming device of choice.

(*U.S. Times Only*)

(*Check your local listings internationally*

(*Card and Start Times Subject to Change.*)

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