Mike Tyson’s presence in Francis Ngannou corner can hand him a stylistic and psychological edge against Tyson Fury
Heavyweight legend Tyson has been training Ngannou in preparation for 'The Gypsy King'.
Francis Ngannou will have to channel all the guile, ferocity and intelligence of the legendary Mike Tyson to stand a chance of beating Tyson Fury on Saturday. But with the man himself in his corner, there is hope.
The former UFC heavyweight champion will make his boxing debut against ‘The Gypsy King’ in a non-title contest in Sadi Arabia in the sport’s latest crossover spectacle dubbed ‘the Battle of the Baddest’.
To level the playing field, Ngannou has enlisted the services of the man who for so long was known as ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’. Tyson has been training the Cameroonian in preparation for the big night to see if that concussive power Ngannou holds in both hands can be carried over from the cage to the boxing ring.
The very best fighters seldom settle into coaching roles. While it has been a short window, Tyson has been eager to help mould the MMA monster into a boxing beast and harness his power into something more nuanced in the same way his legendary trainer Cus D’Amato did with him over 40 years ago.
Ngannou has a ferocious MMA record, with 12 of his 17 wins inside the cage coming via knockout. During his march to becoming UFC heavyweight champion in 2021 he left a trail of dazed and broken opponents in his wake before leaving the promotion last year to join the PFL [Professional Fighters League].
Fury is the overwhelming favourite heading into their fight but Tyson’s presence has added an extra layer of intrigue.
Former UFC fighter Dan Hardy, now director of European fighter operations with PFL, believes the 57-year-old has been instilling the same style and in-ring qualities that made him such a destructive menace on the heavyweight division in the 1980s and 90s. It could be a partnership made in boxing heaven.
‘Mike Tyson’s presence in Francis Ngannou’s corner is a big psychological advantage,’ Hardy told Metro.co.uk.
‘I think there were certain fighters out there who would have come in and given him that little bit of a boost, maybe taught him a few things. But if you could take what Mike Tyson did and download that into Francis Ngannou, that for me is what gives him the best chance of beating Tyson Fury – or at least getting close enough to him to land those power punches.
‘Tyson’s ability to move from one side to the next, keeping his guard high and utilising that Peek-a-boo style, that is exactly what Ngannou needs to get himself inside the jab of Tyson Fury and make sure he doesn’t walk onto anything silly.
‘He [Ngannou] is so far behind that he can’t really add too much to his game in the time he has had,’ Hardy conceded. ‘So what you have to do is optimise what he already does really well which is that power punch to the head.
‘You have to get him in close enough to do that and that for me is where Mike Tyson comes in. Of course, it brings a huge confidence but also the technical ability and understanding of what it is like to fight much bigger individuals, I think that is something Tyson can certainly pass onto him.’
Fury, named after the man who became the youngest heavyweight world champion in 1986, regards Tyson as a hero. But that man will be plotting his downfall this weekend.
‘I think it has had a mental affect and it shows Francis is willing to do whatever it takes,’ Hardy said. ‘He is not showing up to be an MMA fighter in a boxing ring. He has gone to one of the best to ever do it to see what he can learn. And seeing Mike in the opposite corner will hurt Fury. It will be mixed emotions for him.’
Following his battle with Ngannou, Fury’s focus will immediate switch to IBF, WBA and WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk with their historic undisputed title fight now confirmed – possibly as soon as the end of December.
Fury has insisted he would have no hesitation in fighting Ngannou again under MMA rules, leaving his comfort zone and entering his opponent’s world where he has been so deadly.
He would not be the first boxer to swap the ring for the cage. Former middleweight, super-middleweight and cruiserweight champion James Toney made the transition in 2010, losing by submission to Randy Couture.
While Fury’s comments about fighting under MMA rules will have been taken with a rather large pinch of salt, Hardy believes he stands a better chance of succeeding than any other other heavyweight boxer.
‘I absolutely think he could do it,’ Hardy said. ‘His character… he is a boxer by profession but a fighting man by upbringing with any or no rule set. I feel he would adapt very well to MMA. Of course, he would be easy to take down because he has no grappling experience and he is tall, rangy man.
‘But you look back into UFC history, people like Tim Sylvia, another awkward, tall guy, he made it work for him. If Fury puts the right work in with the right people he could be a handful no matter wherever he is fighting.’
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