RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — When Tyson Fury, arguably one of the all-time great heavyweight boxers, takes on MMA fighter Francis Ngannou in Riyadh on Saturday, the question is not just how serious a contest it will be, but rather how seriously Fury takes it.
Ngannou is an experienced exponent of mixed martial arts but at 37 his best years are behind him and he is a novice when it comes to boxing at this level.
The fight has yet to be sanctioned as a professional bout — it is 10 three-minute rounds — and Fury’s World Boxing Council heavyweight belt will not be on the line.
Instead, with all parties desperate to lend the contest some sporting legitimacy, the WBC has fashioned a “Riyadh Champion” belt which will allow the winner to strut around the ring at the end with something other than a big, fat pay cheque.
Fury, who has a far more serious bout lined up in Riyadh in December against the Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, who currently holds the other three world titles, has been linked with a £50 million ($60.6 million) payout from Saturday’s exhibition.
Fury himself has said in the British press that Ngannou will earn £10 million — not too shabby for your first ever boxing fight.
In spite of the falseness of the show, both fighters are going through the motions in the build-up with the usual badinage bordering on insults.
“Francis Ngannou is a big, fat sausage,” said Fury at his eve of fight press conference on Friday.
“That’s why he won’t take his top off. He’s embarrassed of his body. If it was up to Francis, he’d fight with his t-shirt on.”
“He’s the bull, I’m the matador — 99.999 percent of the time, the matador wins.”