Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou: Three ways the former UFC heavyweight champion could pull the massive upset

On Saturday, former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou will attempt to do the unthinkable by defeating WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in the boxing ring. It’s an opportunity Ngannou has long wanted and was, at least in part, one of the reasons Ngannou split from the UFC while actively holding their heavyweight title.

Of course, securing the fight and winning the fight are two very different things. Fury is a clear and obvious favorite heading into the fight, which may or may not be an actual professional clash depending on who you ask on what day.

Fury is, without question, the best heavyweight boxer of the modern era. Expecting Ngannou to do what no man has been able to do and defeat Fury is expecting too much. But a fight is a fight and crazy things can happen, especially when a fighter packs as much dynamite in their fists as Ngannou.

“This is a dream come true. And I remember four years ago, when I first met Mike Tyson, my only request was for him to be in my corner if I fight Tyson Fury,” Ngannou said at the final press conference this week. “People thought I was losing it. They thought I was crazy. They thought it would never happen. But here we are. The fight is happening. So, I’m living a dream. This has always been my dream. It wasn’t easy, but we are here.

“I want to thank Tyson Fury for taking the fight and taking this risk because there is a lot of risk here for him. He might go to sleep on Saturday night. But I appreciate his courage, and I thank him.”

With that said, we took a look at the fight to identify three keys to Ngannou being able to pull off a dramatic and historic upset when the two titans clash in Saudi Arabia. Let’s take a look at what Ngannou needs to do to get it done.

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Land the Hail Mary shot

Francis Ngannou hits very hard, this is not in doubt. You’ve likely heard that Ngannou holds the record for the hardest punch ever recorded. That is true, in its way. Ngannou registered a punching power of 129,161 units on a PowerKube. Of course, not every big puncher in the world has stepped to the PowerKube and been tested. Still, Ngannou hits like a truck (somewhat literally, according to PowerKube) and it’s not a good idea for anyone to get caught flush on the chin by someone who has the punching power of Ngannou.

Everyone with any sense — especially the fighters — knows that Ngannou has zero chance to win this fight outside of scoring the knockout. Ngannou hits hard, but he is not going to outbox Tyson Fury, not on his best day and Fury’s worst. Ngannou has to land a big, fight-changing bomb. He then has to follow that bomb up with more bombs until Fury is down and out.

The obvious problem with this being the ultimate key to Ngannou’s victory is that Deontay Wilder, without a doubt one of the hardest pound-for-pound punchers in boxing history, has fought Fury three times, knocked him down several times, and has not been able to keep Fury on the canvas. Wilder is a legitimate boxer who has trained to land that punch in the boxing ring and has flattened almost every opponent he has ever faced. Ngannou, on the other hand, is a mixed martial artist who is transitioning to the boxing ring. That said, part of Ngannou’s success could come from taking an approach of …

Don’t be “a boxer”

When you’ve spent your life fighting boxers who all come from the same basic fundamental approach of the boxing toolbox, something unorthodox can trip you up. Mixed martial artists don’t use the same footwork and angles as boxers because they have to worry about incoming kicks and takedown attempts. Those little differences can cause a bit of extra chaos in a straight boxing match where a great boxer like Fury has trained his entire life to expect one thing and instead, Ngannou brings something just a little bit different.

The more Ngannou approaches the fight trying to fight like a “real boxer,” the easier he makes things on Fury. Ngannou does not have the technical boxing base of a world champion-level boxer and he isn’t going to develop it over the course of a single training camp. He even enlisted former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson to his camp, but news came out this week that it was more of a ceremonial role than anything, as one of Ngannou’s coaches noted.

“It’s more of a promotional angle but anytime you get Mike involved it’s good to have…” Eric Nicksick¬†told CBS Sports. “Usually in areas I feel like Francis will say, ‘Hey, I’m alright. I’m good. I’m tired. I’m done,’ he would push through these workouts. I knew he didn’t want to disappoint Mike.

“Every time I felt like Francis had met his breaking point, he would look over at Mike Tyson and be like, ‘No, I have to do it. I have to get one more. I have to get through it.’ And I just love that mentality. Mike is really pulling the best out of Francis every time he’s around.”

The more Ngannou can present controlled awkwardness, the better chance he has of tripping up Fury and possibly creating openings to land a big right hand and changing the course of the fight.

Don’t be afraid to make it dirty

Fighting dirty in this context doesn’t mean breaking the rules and throwing around elbows and headbutts, but rather getting a bit rough and not standing at range and boxing with a boxer. Fury is a big man with slick head movement and power in both hands. It’s a mistake for Ngannou to stand at punching range trying to go blow-for-blow with the best heavyweight boxer of his generation.

There’s no doubt that the pending undisputed heavyweight championship bout with Oleksandr Usyk will be in the back of Fury’s mind when he’s fighting Ngannou. If Ngannou can get inside and get a bit rough, Fury could develop some worries about cuts or other injuries that could delay or even cancel the fight with Usyk.

Fury is good in the clinch, but Ngannou’s MMA background should give him some skills to muscle Fury around a bit and make things uncomfortable. Of course, too much wrestling around in a clinch could drain Ngannou and Fury is an expert at leaning his massive frame on people to sap their energy. Knowing when and how to get inside and rough Fury up a bit could be a central piece of the puzzle for Ngannou to pull off a truly stunning upset.

Unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will be one of the most interested spectators in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night and he was greeted by Fury upon arrival in Saudi Arabia on Friday. Usyk and Fury have finally signed on for the first four-belt undisputed title bout in heavyweight history with the target date of Dec. 23. But if Fury were to suffer an injury, cut or stunning upset, it would only delay that bout even further into 2024.

“At this present moment in my time in life, I’m only interested in Ngannou,” Fury told CBS Sports this week. “If I get a massive cut 27 inches across the eyebrow and I get an injured right hand and two broken ribs in victory, then that’s what I’ll do. I’m not too concerned about Usyk at all. All my focus and energy is going into fighting Francis and I’ve given it an unbelievable preparation.”

Who wins Francis Ngannou vs. Tyson Fury, and which prop is a must-back?¬†Visit SportsLine now to see Peter Kahn’s best bets for Saturday, all from the boxing specialist who has netted his followers a profit of nearly $4,000, and find out.

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