By: Sean Crose
It was supposed to be an easy fight, a figurative walk in the park, if you will. Tyson Fury, regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight champions ever in some circles after three powerhouse performances against American sledgehammer Deontay Wilder, would unquestionably steamroll former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou before a live crowd in Saudi Arabia and a par per view audience of millions. Ngannou had never fought professionally, after all. And besides, didn’t most famous mixed martial artists get turned into virtual punching bags when squaring off in the ring against boxers of note? They said it would be easy.
But Francis Ngannou, as the world quickly found out, was something different. For starters, he approached boxing like a boxer, not a famous mixed martial artist out of prove what real fighting is. What’s more, unlike most recent Fury opponents, Ngannou appeared to be stronger than Fury. So much for bullying an opponent in the ring, Tyson. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Ngannou proved that mixed martial artists, or at least some, could indeed punch with top level boxers. While Fury ended up walking out of the ring with a split decision victory that night, it was Ngannou who had scored a knockdown in round three.
And so now Ngannou is returning to the sweet science for his second fight as a professional boxer against former WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua. Give Ngannou this, he’s not looking for cheap crossover paydays. The truth is that Joshua will enter the ring the favorite when the two men battle in a March pay per view event – and that’s frankly as it should be. The shock that a virtual boxing novice can hang with some of the world’s top boxers will have worn off by fight time, which means Ngannou will no longer have the element of surprise on his side. The man will, however, have the power, discipline and natural talent to be incredibly dangerous.
Make no mistake about it, Joshua should be able to best Ngannou, but at this point no one should be surprised if Ngannou pulls off the upset. “I will do something nobody has done,” underdog Ngannou said at a Monday press conference. Those words would have sounded silly before the Tyson fight. They don’t sound silly now. They may well prove to be untrue – but they certainly don’t sound silly.
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