ProBox TV's top talents created a blueprint for heavyweight boxers to beat the sport's newest star Francis Ngannou.
The former UFC champion shook up the world when he crossed over into boxing and stunned Tyson Fury with a performance so solid it pushed the unbeaten fighter into deep waters, escaping with a slim 10-round win Saturday in Saudi Arabia.
There has been debate ever since over whether Fury under-prepared, under-trained, or has lost a step as one of boxing's best operators.
Regardless, the way in which Ngannou fought showed a fighter who took the bout so seriously that he may well have secured himself a rematch down the line, or another big money fight against the likes of Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas, Zhilei Zhang in Beijing, or Anthony Joshua in England or Saudi Arabia.
Our analysts Teddy Atlas, Chris Algieri, and Paul Malignaggi broke down how a future heavyweight boxer could beat Ngannou more easily than Fury managed to.
"[You have to] control the outside, the distance," American boxing coach Atlas told ProBox TV this week. "He's a good puncher so the less time you spend close enough for him to detonate that power on your skull, the better you're probably doing. Control the outside, use the jab, give angles.
"If you've got a good puncher, what do you want to do? Keep him from being set to punch."
Atlas added: "One of the great things about Ngannou was his legs were always in position to punch well, and get that power, so give him angles, make him move his feet, adjust, keep him off-balance so you don't allow him to set, to detonate. Keep the outside, control the outside, obviously the angles. Give him feints every once in a while.
"He showed a pretty darned good left hook, catch and shoot. You don't want to be there when he shoots back at you. Give him a little feint, so he looks for that catch and shoot a little too soon. Look for that counter too soon, so once he pulls the trigger on it, then it's safe travels and you can come forward for that split second in a safer way without that gun being ready to fire at you."
Algieri said that victory over Ngannou is something that "comes down to fundamental boxing."
He said: "When Fury came out throwing big hooks and right hands off the bat, I was worried. But once he got the jab, which he used to set up his power punches with a good, shappy, with that 6-foot-9 frame/reach jab that Fury utilizes. He didn't really use it that night. He did in the ninth and tenth rounds, going to his boxing, and from there it was pretty easy to see who was in control.
"Over a guy like Ngannou, coming from a different fight sport, it's about feet and defense — the two hardest things to master when it comes to boxing. That takes the longest to learn. So, getting the jab going, making him fall for the feints [that Teddy Atlas mentioned], that's important. Once you see their head in front of their feet, that's where you take advantage [of fighters coming to boxing from a different combat sport].
"I think if you go out there, jab with Ngannou, you get him to bite on feints, over-zealous, fall over his front foot, now you have him off balance and can use your counters. He didn't really use it that night. He did in the ninth and tenth rounds, going to his boxing, and from there it was pretty easy to see who was in control."
He continued: "From a technical aspect, it's really not that difficult, it's fundamental boxing — dealing with a puncher. You get a guy off balance, don't let him get set, you don't let him be a counter puncher, you get the jab on him, you get him feinting on jabs, and get him to over-extend. Once he over-extends, you stick him.
"Also, touching the body and making him work. Winning those moments, fighting the whole round, and I think guys who put a lot of mental and physical pressure on a guy like Ngannou — or any puncher, this is how you fight puncher — you put pressure on them, make sure defense is sharp, make them miss, dip that gas tank low, touch them downstairs, make them heistant.
"When they hesitate, it's game over."
Malignaggi agreed with his fellow ProBox TV analysts but meanwhile added that there was one punch available to Fury that he failed to think about throwing.
"One of the excuses Tyson Fury came up with was that Francis Ngannou was awkward. But I actually don't think he was awkward at all. He learned his boxing well. He was well-balanced, threw straight punches. … I think when Fury was expecting an awkward guy, and didn't get an awkward guy, that's what was awkward for him — a conventional [boxer].
"Keeping Ngannou working the entire time, you don't have to engage him, but stress him with sharp feints. When you have the experience, you know you can stress him without throwing full power. Ngannou had to throw everything with full power. He doesn't have the experience to take stuff off the shots. That's why Ngannou had to fight in spots, because he had to recover after throwing hard punches.
"Fury can touch you, touch you, touch, it will stress you. Keep him fighting three minutes of every round, Ngannou's gas tank will drain more. Everything that stresses a regular fighter will stress someone like Ngannou more. That's one way you've got to fight Ngannou in an intelligent fashion. Not loading up on shots also gives him less counterpunch opportunities, small snappy shots, to the body, drain him a little.
"Keep him consistent, make him feel he's working all three minutes. There's still one specific punch — when he came in, he came in from the front door, he was shooting straight-in with a jab and left hand, even when he turned southpaw.
"There was an uppercut that Fury landed on Dillian Whyte that turned his lights on, he rolled and shot it. That shot was there for Fury to use, and he wasn't sharp or thinking about making those adjustments. That punch was there all night."