Francis Ngannou Looks to Add to Cinderella Story Against Brilliant Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou
Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou face off. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Francis Ngannou will look to add a seminal moment to his story when he makes his boxing debut against lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury this Saturday.

If there’s one knock on boxing, it’s how often the business side of things keeps the fights that the fans want from happening.  The examples are plentiful: the time it took for Floyd Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao was far too long and the hurdles that took place to make Terrence Crawford against Errol Spence Jr were annoying, just to name two.

Tyson Fury is no stranger to these problems.  “The Gypsy King” is the unquestioned superstar of the heavyweight division and is one of the top talents in the world today.  But two of the biggest fights that could be made involving him have been troublesome to make.  A bout with fellow UK star Anthony Joshua has been troublesome to make due to timing and the two competing for different networks.  More recently, a title unification bout with Oleksandr Usyk has led to a rift with the fans as long negotiations fell apart for the fight.  In short, fans clamor to see Fury fight the other stars of the division at a time when he’s at the height of his powers.  But instead, they feel as if they are forced to settle for a lesser product due to the business of boxing.

His fight with former UFC champion Francis Ngannou comes at an interesting time.  Arguably, business for the top fighters in the world and the Fury family specifically has never been bigger.  Fury’s younger brother Tommy has dispatched the two top stars of Influencer boxing back-to-back and is building a legacy all his own.  In boxing, Saudi Arabia has made a concerted effort to bring more sporting events to the country and that has led to bigger paydays.  Fury himself is a big beneficiary as he is now in talks to have back-to-back fights in Riyadh with agreements to potentially fight Usyk in December should he emerge unscathed on Saturday.  On paper, he is the heavy favorite.  He is the one who ended the reign of Vladimir Klitschko and the run of Deontay Wilder.  He is on an undefeated streak of his own and is the lineal champion who carries the torch in the sport’s storied history.  So big a star is he and so certain are the powers that be of his skills that he has already agreed to terms for a fight with Usyk later this year or early next year to unify the heavyweight boxing title of the world. At a time when boxing has never had more going on, 2023 could be the year of Fury.  But it will ask him to once again prove just how special he can really be.

Francis Ngannou’s story is a long one, perhaps far too long to tell here.  But the short version going into Saturday is this: After a life that has seen plenty of hardship before reaching worldwide acclaim through the UFC, he gambled on himself by leaving the worldwide leader in order to pursue greater paydays and opportunities.  This week, he has a chance to complete a Cinderella story of unprecedented proportions.  He left millions on the table to fight Jon Jones in the UFC, and it paid off as he will make even more for the fight with Fury.  That is not to mention the great amount from the PFL that could eventually rival or even outdo the UFC between fight purses and his salary as the President of Fighter Operations for their expansion into Africa.  If it was just about cold hard cash, then Ngannou has won the game.  If it is about legacy, then one could argue he could win it all there on Saturday after leaving the UFC as a champion and then defeating the generationally great heavyweight champion.

It would be easy to say that Francis Ngannou has nothing to lose, is playing with house money, etc.  Perhaps that is widely true; his biggest loss on Sunday may only be to his ego and in the eyes of the greater pure boxing loving public.  But in sports, immortality is often down to wins and losses.  The elephant in the room may always be what would have happened if he fought Jon Jones in the UFC.  In MMA, at least for the moment, there is no consolation prize that would rival ending the win-streak of the greatest of all-time.  Monetarily, as stated earlier, Ngannou has already won the fight.  But if the business of the sport indeed sends the Jones fight into the ether forever, then having that signature victory over Fury is his best chance to etch himself into the history books in regards to competition.

Should Francis Ngannou do what no one has done before, then it would be impossible not to imagine an immediate rematch being made.  Moreover, it would immediately go onto the 2024 schedule as the must-watch combat sports event of the year.  Should Fury win the Battle of the Baddest, he is already scheduled to face Oleksandr Usyk as early as this December.  Ngannou, barring an upset victory, is already set to return to MMA next year where it’s expected that he will fight the 2023 PFL heavyweight tournament winner.  Considering that Saudi Arabia has invested in the company and will be bringing events to the country in 2024, it’s expected that his promotional debut will be stacked as a groundbreaking event that could also feature Jake Paul and more of the biggest non-UFC stars in the sport.