Some say that if Francis Ngannou shocks world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia in his professional boxing debut, it will be the biggest shock in boxing history.
However, that is not the case for Ngannou’s team, who refuse to believe the former UFC heavyweight champion is a second-favourite going in to Saturday’s Riyadh showpiece.
Ngannou’s striking coach, Dewey Cooper, insists they are not there simply to make up the numbers, or for a cash grab.
“I don’t like the idea of accepting anything that seems to have a negative connotation,” Cooper said, when asked if Ngannou has an underdog’s mentality. “I wouldn’t say [we’re] accepting the role of underdog, it’s understanding people thinking you’re the underdog but inside definitely don’t accept that and know that you’re a conqueror and that you’re going to conquer the moment and know you’re going to be victorious.”
Cooper knows they are not expected to win, but they are going into the event with confidence and belief.
“That is something we know and we feel,” Cooper added. “Everything else is what the people think, their expertise, their judgment and cutting the data and giving their information. No. We’re here to shock the world, have the biggest upset in all sport’s history and show the world that the baddest man on the planet in Francis Ngannou.”
For many casual observers, Ngannou will win the battle of the eye test. His physique could lead one to believe he is the baddest man on the planet, but the fact that Fury does not have the rippling muscles means absolutely nothing, and Cooper agrees. Even Ngannou has called Fury’s physique “a trap.”
“Physiques don’t mean anything because Fury is an anomaly,” Cooper explained. “He’s a very special guy. He may not look like an athlete but he’s extremely athletic. His dad named him after Mike Tyson, he should have named him after Muhammad Ali because he fights like Muhammad Ali. That’s an athletic, motion, skilled style. So he may look like he’s not mobile or athletic, but he’s extremely mobile and extremely athletic and he’s extremely confident. He has giant attributes that are hard to come across and he’s obviously physically strong the way he clinches, it just burns people out.”
Ngannou, conversely, looks big and strong and his is big and strong. But his engine in three-minute boxing rounds is unknown.
“I say physique doesn’t mean much, but also it does because Francis has that statuesque physique but it’s real,” Cooper said. “He does have strength, he does have the power, he does have all those things that you would think someone muscular like him would have.”
And although Fury is known to clinch at times, lean on his opponent to wear them down, Cooper suggests they are ready for that, that Ngannou is not only ready for the rough stuff but that it is his wheelhouse. If Fury gets in close, Ngannou will be ready.
“Clinching and wrestling has always been part of what Francis does,” Cooper smiled. “He’s a god damn MMA fighter, but trust me, I’m not going to give up game plans but we are definitely qualified and ready and locked and loaded for those scenarios.”