The mentality in Francis Ngannou’s camp is not one of the former UFC heavyweight champion just being happy to be sharing a boxing ring with Tyson Fury, the world heavyweight boxing champion, in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.
Ngannou and his team reckon it is a fight they can win, and they do not believe their only shot is a Hail Mary.
“This fight’s going to come down to the battle of wills, the battle of who truly deserves this,” said Ngannou’s striking coach Dewey Cooper. “Tyson’s had a lot of glorious days. Francis has won the UFC championship. Who deserves it more? I’m feeling Francis deserves it more and we’ll see on October 28.”
Ngannou told reporters that he did not view it as a crossover fight between a boxer and an MMA star, more that it is a contest between two fighters who will be boxing.
But even Cooper didn’t see this fight coming years ago.
“Early on, no,” Cooper admitted. “But over the last few years, absolutely. After he [Ngannou] won the UFC title, I’ve seen this happening because Tyson started talking on Twitter. He’s the UFC champ, Tyson was the lineal people’s champ, the best heavyweight in the world, and that was before the Deontay Wilder fights. He’s proved that now. He’s definitely the best heavyweight boxing champion of this era and we’ve seen it happening.”
But Cooper admits that having to be prepared for anything in the boxing ring has been the biggest challenge, as opposed to having to be ready to face anything that comes Ngannou’s way in a cage.
“The biggest challenge has been getting him acclimated to the intangible things in boxing,” Cooper told ProBox TV News. “Remember, being a mixed martial artist, you may box once or twice a week, the other days you’re working on other things; grappling, wrestling, cage control, wall wrestling, kickboxing, so many other things.
“This is the first time in his career where he’s been able to do boxing every day, six days a week, over the last several weeks. So all those little mechanical things that a lot of MMA fighters don’t really have to focus on so much, because they’re not just boxing, they have to worry about kicks and takedowns and other stuff, he was able to focus on.”
Many feel Ngannou’s best or only chance is one shot, probably early, against the undefeated WBC champion. That Ngannou is in the Guinness book of World Records for throwing the hardest punch is one of the few things going in his favour.
“He already has the hardest punch ever recorded,” Cooper added.
Then, explaining what should be expected because Ngannou has been able to dedicate himself solely to striking the last few weeks, Cooper said: “Expect an increase in power. Expect an increase in speed. Expect an increase in natural non-telegraphic punching, which is the most important. Remember I told you that. Non-telegraphic punching, meaning the shit you get hit with that you don’t see.”