It’s a joyous circus. This Saturday in Saudi Arabia, the first trick will be the ring emerging from a 26-foot hole in the ground, and then the real magic will start.
Tyson Fury, the unbeaten heavyweight champion of the world, will then appear inside a giant neon beam and, wearing a crown, he will bow to the crowd and the dignitaries.
In the opposite corner, as the magic continues, will be Francis Ngannou, a man who has never once fought a boxing match, and under this giant canopy of created rivalry, one of the biggest fights in history will take place. If that is not a “Hey, presto” moment, then I don’t know what is!
In front of 20,000 people, including a dozen former heavyweight world champions, and some of the wealthiest men on Earth, the best heavyweight in the boxing world will fight the best heavyweight in the MMA world to see who is the Baddest Man on the Planet. It is a genius, simple and lunatic idea.
It is not the first and it will not be the last circus fight involving a legitimate heavyweight boxer.
Muhammad Ali had a 15-round bore fest with a wrestler called Antonio Inoki, Rocky Balboa met Hulk Hogan, Chuck Wepner fought Andre the Giant, and Two-Ton Tony Galento knocked out an octopus. I need to point out that the octopus was actually deceased before the first bell.
Fury also has a massive advantage in his fight, which will be conducted under the rules of the British Boxing Board of Control, because kicks, chokeholds, headbutts, flying elbows and knees to the head will be banned. In short, Ngannou has had all his tools withdrawn.
However, Ngannou has been trained by Mike Tyson, had a crash course in boxing’s darkest arts by the dirtiest fighter in the world, and his punch has been registered as the hardest in history. The science is available to prove just how lethal Ngannou’s right hand is, but even I draw the line somewhere.
Fury is a genuine boxing giant and will tower over Ngannou once the anthems, introductions and pleasantries have been conducted by Michael Buffer, the suave voice of boxing. Ngannou will, trust me, shrink once he takes up a traditional boxing pose and his stated height of 6ft 4in will be in the permanent shadow of Fury. And then the beating will start; Fury is a truly vicious man inside the ropes.
There are stupid claims that Ngannou has a “puncher’s chance”, which is like saying that any car, on any street, driven by anybody, could have won the F1 in Texas last weekend. Ngannou has no chance of winning and that is fine, but this is still a real fight, it’s just not a competitive one. It is an event and, as I said, we have had hundreds of sanctioned fights like this. The lovers and believers in the MMA dream will be praying to the fighting lords for a miracle; they are both delusional and out of luck.
In 2000, Mike Tyson knocked out British heavyweight Julius Francis and the promoter, Frank Warren – who is also promoting the fight on Saturday – spent two months telling people: “This is not a fight, it is an event.” Warren was right and it was a great event. Francis, incidentally, sold the advertising space on the soles of his shoes to a national paper to make a few extra quid. The paper got a bargain.
Fury will hold court in a country where the ruling elite know how to hold court. He will be draped in traditional clothing, sip tea from gold urns, have giant kestrels rest on his giant fists and bow respectfully each time he is honoured. It will be a fun circus and Ngannou, with the other Tyson in his face, will prepare like Rocky did in the first movie. It will be a wonderful carnival.
There is bold talk of a rematch with Ngannou under MMA rules and that will never happen. On Saturday night, as Mike Tyson tends to Ngannou’s blood-stained face, there will be a cameo in the ring by Oleksandr Usyk, the other heavyweight champion, and a new carnival will start for Fury vs Usyk. What a business.