Tyson Fury is back in action on Saturday night, earning a big payday when he takes on Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia – Chris Oliver previews the action.
1pt Tyson Fury to win in rounds 5-6 at 4/1 (Coral, Labdrokes)
2pts Fabio Wardley to win in rounds 1-6 at 7/2 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook)
Circus. Mismatch. Cash-grab.
All the above have been used to describe Tyson's Fury's fight with Francis Ngannou this weekend and it's hard to argue with any of them.
The latter is the former UFC heavyweight champion and takes on the current WBC heavyweight champion in a 10-round boxing contest in Saudi Arabia.
The local organisers have stumped up obscene amounts of money for this latest instalment in a worrying trend of crossover fights and no expense has been spared in a massive marketing campaign. A purpose-built arena has been erected in the desert for the 20,000-strong crowd and this huge event is being billed as a clash between the two baddest men on the planet.
However, the reality is that it’s a fight between the man widely-regarded as the best heavyweight in the sport against someone who has never boxed competitively in his life, and it is not a good look for boxing.
As a purist, I don’t like it one bit and would much rather Fury defended his title against a top contender from his own sport, a view backed by most fans of the sweet science, and Fury has come in for plenty of criticism as a result. That said, it’s a short career and, in a sport as dangerous as boxing, it’s hard to begrudge the ‘Gypsy King’ earning the highest amount possible for the least amount of risk.
The only way boxing fans could be appeased is if the fight the world really wants to see – Fury versus Oleksandr Usyk for all the heavyweight marbles – was confirmed as being next. Thankfully, that’s just what has happened and, with that blockbuster signed for December or January, the event in the Middle East on Saturday is that little bit easier to stomach.
For all the talk of ‘what ifs’ and Ngannou being a huge puncher who ‘only has to land one shot’, Fury is a best price of 1/14 and the only surprise is that those odds aren’t even shorter.
A 9/1 chance here, Ngannou may have been known for using his fists and his exciting knockouts in the UFC, but MMA and boxing are two completely different sports, and his task couldn’t be any bigger. If some of the best heavyweight boxers on the planet have struggled to lay a glove on Fury, what chance does a 0-0 novice have in his first fight?
The man from Morecambe has an excellent boxing IQ to match his huge physical advantages here, and it’s not as if Ngannou has youth or momentum on his side either. He’s the older man by two years at 37, hasn’t fought in 21 months and has had major knee surgery in the interim.
Fury by stoppage doesn’t take much finding at 2/9 but trying to find the ‘when’ for a winning bet in a fight like this isn’t quite so easy because there is much more at play than just the abilities of the two men in the ring.
If Fury was guaranteed to come out looking to end this as quick as possible, then the 3/1 about the Englishman winning in the first three rounds would look fantastic value. However, given he has received so much flak for taking this fight, will he really want to end it early and justify all those who made a mockery of this fight? I don’t think he will.
Just as we saw the last time a big MMA star fought a leading boxer, Floyd Mayweather carried Conor McGregor for a long way in their mega-money contest in 2017 before deciding to end it in the 10th when, in reality, he could have done the same thing much earlier if he had wanted to.
Also, if Ngannou is to stand any chance whatsoever, surely it will be early doors and he is likely to come out all guns blazing, which adds more weight to my belief that Fury will take it easy in the opening exchanges.
It is a bit of a guessing game as to when Fury will want to finish this, but I can see the favourite playing with his opponent for a few rounds and having a bit of fun, before getting serious around the halfway stage and sticking it on Ngannou. The latter will have no experience of how to judge the pace of a boxing match and I can envisage him tiring badly around the midway point, which is when Fury may decide to quit playing the clown and put an end to the circus. The prediction is for FURY TO WIN IN ROUNDS 5 OR 6 at 4/1.
Once this is out of the way, we can then look forward to the proper stuff in the winter. Cue Mr Usyk, who will be ringside in Riyadh and the build-up for their history-making showdown will begin right after the final bell on Saturday evening.
The good news for those forking out £21.95 to watch the show on TNT Box Office is that we have a good undercard to enjoy, especially the chief support of Fabio Wardley versus David Adeleye.
Rumoured to be the richest British title fight in history, it is also the first for the Lonsdale belt to be held outside of British territory and it has fireworks written all over it. Both are unbeaten prospects with serious power, and neither is particularly elusive, plus there is genuine bad blood between the pair after they came to blows at a red-carpet event a few weeks ago.
Wardley has stopped 15 of his 16 victims and 11 of Adeleye’s 12 wins have come early, while each man has only once gone beyond five rounds, so it’s easy to see why it is only 4/11 for this to not go the distance.
Adeleye, who can be backed at 11/4, is lucky to still have his zero after he was very fortunate to escape with a six-round points victory over journeyman Kamil Sokolowski in April 2021. He has improved since but has still looked vulnerable on occasions and his calibre of opposition doesn’t compare to that of Wardley, who is a 1/3 favourite.
Wardley has a tendency to start slowly but has also roared into action when woken up by a shot or two and ended things not long after. His fights with former world title challenger Eric Molina (KO5) and ex-British title holder Nathan Gorman (TKO3) are prime examples of that, and those pieces of form trump anything on Adeleye’s CV.
Having boxed on bigger shows, Wardley should be better equipped to handle the occasion and, with no amateur experience of note, he is also the one who seems to be progressing the most out of the pair.
The Ipswich man to win by stoppage looks rock solid at 4/5 with Sky Bet but for those looking for more value, the 7/2 available for WARDLEY TO WIN IN THE FIRST HALF ticks that box. With all that has gone on, this should catch fire early and Wardley looks the man best equipped to handle the heat.
Posted at 1200 BST on 27/10/23
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