Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of Tyson Fury’s 10-round contest with former mixed martial arts star and UFC champion Francis Ngannou.
Fury’s WBC heavyweight world title is not on the line for what is expected to be a fairly routine warm-up exercise, before a potential unification bout against Oleksandr Usyk in December.
Ngannou, who is entering the ring for the first time in a professional boxing match under rules, has no right to get near an operator of Fury’s class but could offer the virtue of surprise. The French-Cameroonian fighter has enough power in his right hand to give him the faintest of chances, but that depends on getting around Fury’s jab, something even seasoned boxers struggle to do.
Ngannou weighed in at 272.1 lbs to Fury’s 277.7 lbs in Saudi Arabia on Friday, and is in entirely uncharted territory. In the words of Fury: “It’s like a table tennis champion facing Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, totally different.”
Fury has taken his preparation seriously, sparring with the likes of Joseph Parker (who fights on tonight’s undercard) at his training base in Morecambe. At a public workout in Saudi this week, Fury looked to be working on his speed with observers left unimpressed by Ngannou’s laboured efforts.
Dewey Cooper and Mike Tyson have been training Ngannou during a 14-week camp, with Tyson telling Telegraph Sport that his strategy against Fury would have been to “stay close, attack the body, and punch upwards.”
The main thing for Fury is coming through what ought to be an exhibition with no alarms, paving the way for a date with Usyk. Fury knows the Ukrainian poses a serious obstacle to regaining the three world title belts he took eight years ago from Wladimir Klitschko. If Anthony Joshua can navigate his way past Deontay Wilder, perhaps that dream all-British heavyweight fight will not be dead in the water after all.