Is Francis Ngannou vs. Tyson Fury really for real?

Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou press conference | Dean Fardell / Avalon.red, IMAGO

When Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou was first put together it seemed only obvious that the fight was going to be nothing more than an exhibition. After all, former UFC heavyweight champion though he may be, Francis Ngannou has never fought as a professional boxer before. And here he is, taking on Tyson Fury, still in his prime as perhaps the best heavyweight boxer of his era.

Things all changed, however, back in July, when the WBC revealed that Fury vs. Ngannou would be considered an officially sanctioned bout. Fury’s WBC title would not be on the line, but a new belt was being formed just for the event: The WBC Commemorative Riyadh title.

“This isn’t for the WBC title, but … they’ve commissioned a belt, which is the Riyadh championship belt,” promoter Frank Warren said. “Hopefully this will be something that will be fought for every year, but this is a special special event.”

Doubts raised over Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou sanctioning

Despite the news of the WBC’s involvement, there are major doubts still ongoing about the actual status of the fight. Grey from BoxRec.com, official US & UK boxing record keeper, recently noted that no one has reached out to the site to take responsibility for sanctioning the bout, or to provide official details on the card.

Recent high profile boxing bouts in Saudi Arabia have used the Dubai commission to provide oversight. In this case, however, reports are that the British Boxing Board of Control will be licensing Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou. Only they don’t seem to have notified BoxRec.com about it.

Without a sanctioning body willing to provide details on the fight, it’s left the status of the bout in limbo for a lot of sports books. Right now only a few bookies are offering odds on the contest. Veteran boxing reporter Dan Rafael gave a little more insight into the situation on Twitter as well.

Shades of Vitor Belfort vs. Evander Holyfield

This isn’t the first time that fight fans have seen this kind of confusion in a notable MMA/Boxing crossover fight. Just recently Triller put on an exhibition bout between former UFC champion Vitor Belfort and boxing legend Evander Holyfield. Only, for long stretches of the lead-up to the event, all parties were insisting that the fight had been set up to be a full-rules boxing contest.

“We’ve spoken to Holyfield and Vitor and the commission; no matter what, this will be scored as a pro fight, there will be a clear winner and it will be treated with pro rules,” Triller co-founder Ryan Kavanaugh said ahead of the card.

What fans ended up with was eight 2-minute rounds of exhibition boxing. Or at least they would have if Holyfield hadn’t been so thoroughly shot that he couldn’t make it out of the first round.

Chances are, when the bell rings for the start of round 1 on October 28th in Saudi Arabia, Francis Ngannou and Tyson Fury will step into the ring looking to throw real punches with real fight ending potential. But, there’s also a very real possibility, given the lack of clarity we’re seeing so far, that the bout won’t end up on either man’s record.

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About the author

Zane Simon


Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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