Francis Ngannou is embarking on the tall task of dethroning heavyweight kingpin Tyson Fury in their crossover clash on Saturday in Saudi Arabia.
The former UFC champion and lifelong MMA combatant Ngannou will try his hand at the sweet science by taking on the WBC champion Fury, the most decorated heavyweight of his generation.
To prepare for the battle, Ngannou has paged another boxing icon in Mike Tyson – the man Fury was named after – to serve as one of his coaches.
“[Tyson] comes from time to time to lend a hand, to give his expertise,” Ngannou said during a recent media workout. “I had specifically asked for him to train me four years ago, long before this fight was announced, the first time I met him. He has something inspiring, something motivating. If I could ever have just a tiny piece of what he has, boxing would be very easy for me.”
During a press conference on Thursday to promote the fight, Ngannou (17-3, 12 KOs MMA) further expanded on forming a dynamic duo with Iron Mike.
“They thought it would never happen. But here we are. The fight is happening. So, I’m living a dream. This has always been my dream. It wasn’t easy, but we are here,” said Ngannou.
“We got Mike Tyson in, and the first thing he said that stuck in my mind is when he said, ‘Listen, he has two hands and two feet like you.’ And I got that. And that’s enough for Saturday night. Tyson Fury is definitely the best in boxing, but that’s stopping on Saturday night.
“This camp has been different from my past camps. It’s a different experience, a different beast. I was aware that there was a mountain in front of me, so that’s why we started the camp a lot earlier. And it went well, but having somebody like Mike Tyson around and my coach Dewey Cooper was very helpful in terms of approaching this fight.”
The 37-year-old Cameroonian-French Ngannou has not fought professionally since January 2022 when he scored a unanimous decision win against Ciryl Gane in the UFC.
In March 2022, Ngannou had knee surgery to repair a torn MCL and damaged ACL.
In May of this year, Ngannou signed a promotional deal to continue his career as an MMA fighter in the PFL, but he instead zeroed in on the long-discussed fight with Fury.
“To be honest, I haven’t gotten any respect from the boxing community, so I am not expecting anyone to respect me,” said Ngannou. “I think I need to claim my own respect. Respect is not given. You don’t just walk out there and demand people to respect you for no reason. I think respect is earned, whether it’s the boxing community or life in general.
“I want to thank Tyson Fury for taking the fight and taking this risk because there is a lot of risk here for him. He might go to sleep on Saturday night. But I appreciate his courage, and I thank him.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com, or via www.ManoukAkopyan.com.