The Battle of the Baddest is just hours away. Tyson Fury takes on MMA star Francis Ngannou tonight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The recent crossover fight series that began with Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor has nearly all involved in combat sports looking to cash in on the newest lucrative form of boxing.
Former MMA world champion and UFC star Dan Hardy commentated on the Mayweather-McGregor event in Las Vegas years ago, tonight he commentates on TNT as the lone MMA voice.
“I’ve always been a boxing fan, I studied boxing a lot as part of my sport, mixed martial arts.” Hardy said in an exclusive interview. “To be honest, commentary is commentary, I’m calling the action as it’s happening, and punches are punches. Whether it’s in the little gloves or the big gloves. The pace is different in boxing, obviously there’s a lot less going on, as far as the dynamic-ness of the sport. But yeah, the May-Mac fight [Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor] was a spectacle like this, it was a phenomenal event. Same as the Jake Paul-Nate Diaz one that I was at recently, I did comms [commentary] for that as well. It’s always interesting, I was sitting next to Shawn Porter for that one and he was like ‘What is going on here? This is crazy.’ I like this crossover, I think both sports can learn from one another. I think we both do things very well, but I also think there are things that we can both learn.
“I mean MMA is so young. I started Taekwondo in the 80’s and there was no such thing as the UFC back then, there was no such thing as MMA. So, I was always competing in Taekwondo, or kickboxing, or muay Thai, then when MMA became a thing it just grew so quickly. Because the UFC had control of everything, they were able to match all of the fights, and I think that’s the reason why it grew so quickly, whereas when I was eating into combat sports boxing was always quite fractured. So, it was a bit difficult for me to follow. Combat sports are combat sports, we all train the same. I trained alongside boxers in the gym, Carl Froch was alongside me sometimes in the gym. I trained alongside quite a few, Jawaid Khaliq was another one I used to train with quite a lot, I’d learnt a lot from those guys, but at the same time I had always got the impression that they were interested in what we were doing as well.”
Comparisons have been made between Mayweather-McGregor and Fury-Ngannou for obvious reasons. However, large differences between the two fights are apparent.
“Yeah, I think the difference with this one is given the fact that it’s heavyweight,” Hardy explained, “it can change a lot quicker. Floyd Mayweather is a fantastic, defensive boxer, and Conor McGregor has got decent boxing with heavy hands, but landing a punch on Floyd Mayweather and landing a punch that’s gonna change the face of the fight as well, that was always something that Conor McGregor was always going to struggle with. Francis’s power is unforgiving. If he lands a single punch, it would change, not only the round, but the fight, and I feel like that’s why this is far more interesting. Yes, both are much closer to their prime than those guys were, but at the same time heavyweight boxing has that different intrigue, because of the size and power of the guys.
“I would say the vast majority of boxers have heavier hands than MMA fighters, because, they wear shoes - that’s a big thing, they’re better at planting their feet, much better with footwork, generally with boxers, but another thing as well is the big gloves, you can hit as hard as you like with those, whereas if I’m wearing a 4 ounce glove with a little wrap on, and I hit you in the wrong part of the head, I can break my hand - so you have to be far more strategic. If I’m Tyson Fury, I’m thinking that I’ve got to defend my head but I’ve also got to worry about taking big shots to the shoulders and forearms. That’s what Canelo [Saul Alvarez] is so good at isn’t he, he beats the weapons up, so they can’t utilise them, and then he eats them alive. I feel like that could be something Ngannou could do, I don’t know if he’s had enough time to put that into place, that’s my concern. I think we’re going to get a good 3-4 rounds of entertaining action, and I think Tyson’s gonna be very smart, very strategic, with the Usyk fight in the back of his mind, I think he’s going to try and wear Ngannou down, zap his power and then try and put him away - four or five rounds I think, but I am here to be surprised! Like everybody else is.”