Tyson Fury to face MMA fighter Francis Ngannou in boxing match
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Boxing heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and ex-UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou will fight Oct. 28 in Saudi Arabia, promoters announced Tuesday.
The latest high-profile crossover boxing match between a mixed martial artist and a professional boxer will take place in a regulation ring, with three ringside judges using the 10-point scoring system. The fight announcement by promoter Top Rank didn’t specify whether the bout will count on the fighters’ professional boxing records or whether Fury’s WBC heavyweight title will be on the line.
Fury and Ngannou have talked about a potential meeting for more than a year since Ngannou’s acrimonious departure from the UFC. Promotional companies Queensberry, Top Rank and Ngannou’s promotional banner, GIMIK Fight Promotions, partnered with Riyadh Season — Saudi Arabia’s state-sponsored entertainment and sports festival — to host the fight in Riyadh.
The fight is not the first in Saudi Arabia, but certainly among the biggest at a time when the country’s sporting investments have been labeled by some experts as “ sportswashing,” or using fields of play to change a country’s public image. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was the main topic of a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday in relation to the fund’s proposed deal with the PGA Tour. The men’s and women’s tennis tours have also had talks with the country and the fund has bought its way into soccer — it owns Newcastle United of the English Premier League — and Formula One racing.
Fury first became the unified world heavyweight champion in November 2015 when he toppled Wladimir Klitschko. After losing his belts during nearly three years of inactivity, the 34-year-old Englishman regained the WBC heavyweight title in 2020 and established himself as the world’s top heavyweight.
Fury is 33-0-1 (24 KOs) after stopping Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora last year. He was in negotiations to meet unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk later this year to determine an undisputed champ, but the fight fell apart.
“This guy is supposed to be the hardest puncher in the world, but let’s see how he reacts when he gets hit by the Big GK,” Fury said of Ngannou in a news release. “I can’t wait to get back out there under the lights. I’m looking forward to showing the world that The Gypsy King is the greatest fighter of his generation in an epic battle with another master of his craft.
“It’s going to be a fight for the ages.”
Ngannou will make his professional boxing debut after going 17-3 (12 KOs) in MMA. The Cameroon-born Frenchman who trains in Las Vegas became the UFC’s first African heavyweight champion in 2021, and he defended his title in January 2022 with a clear unanimous-decision victory over undefeated interim champ Ciryl Gane.
“My dream was always to box, and to box the best,” he said. “After becoming the undisputed MMA heavyweight champion, this is my opportunity to make that dream come true and cement my position as the baddest man on the planet.”
The 36-year-old Ngannou said he has been waiting to fight Fury for three years. He decided not to re-sign with the UFC after his promotional contract expired last year, becoming the first active champion to walk away from MMA’s dominant promotion in nearly two decades.
Ngannou signed a deal in May to compete in the Professional Fighters League MMA promotion.
Boxers and mixed martial artists are competing with increasing frequency in the boxing ring ever since Floyd Mayweather Jr’s wildly lucrative victory over Conor McGregor in 2017.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields is among the boxers who have attempted to start a parallel MMA career, drawn by the sport’s higher payouts for the majority of fighters. Other MMA fighters, including multi-promotion champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos, have tried to start boxing careers.