Tyson Fury v Francis Ngannou: Battle of the Baddest – live | Boxing
The fighters have been announced. The final instructions have been given. The seconds are out. We’ll pick it up with round-by-round coverage from here.
Anthem time at Kingdom Arena. First it’s the national anthem of Saudi Arabia. Then O Cameroon, Cradle of Our Forefathers, the anthem of Ngannou’s home country. The God Save the King plays as Fury lightly shadowboxes in his corner. All three are instrumental versions.
… Tyson Fury! The world heavyweight champion emerges on a throne. He too is wearing a crown. After a somber and somewhat glib introduction, Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman plays in the area and he springs from an ornate throne to his feet. He’s wearing a green sleeveless robe with matching trunks with gold trim. The music segues into Baddadan by Chase & Status and Fury bounces on his heels in a circle before climbing into the ring. He appears in fine spirits.
Michael Buffer has taken his place at the center of the ring and it’s time for the fighter entrances in Riyadh. Drake’s Started From the Bottom plays on the arena sound system as 10 performers spread across the semi-circled stage wave Cameroon flags to the beat of the track. It appears there might be a slight delay as Buffer treads water on his introduction. And here finally is Ngannou, who appears beneath a gold crown wearing black robe with gold trim. A member of his entourage removes the prop and he ambles methodically toward the ring surrounded by a group that includes former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya as the song transitions to Drake’s Child’s Play. He’s into the ring as he waits for …
The opening ceremony has concluded. The four-song set ended with Lil Baby performing Pepper alongside Flowdan with a prize-ring slowly emerging from the floor next to the stage. It won’t be much longer now.
The opening ceremony is under way. Lil Baby is performing his 2020 hitwhile flanked by about a dozen white-clad dancers. Now it’s Becky G performing sans Burna Boy before segueing into . It’s still not as good as 50 Cent descending from the rafters of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in a harness before Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV. But it’s a good-faith effort!
The public-facing clock that’s counting down to the main event has just ticked past the 30min mark. That leaves you a half-hour to get your affairs in order … and more than enough time to check out Donald McRae’s interview with Tyson Fury, where the Gypsy King offered a touch of insight on the far more important engagement ahead: his scheduled December meeting with Oleksandr Usyk to unify the long-fractured heavyweight championship:
Saturday night will be very different. It feels like a charade of a fight as Ngannou is a boxing novice whom Fury should beat with ease. “I hope you’re right,” Fury cackles. “I’m intent on punishing him for a while, enjoying it, putting on a show, then bang! Chinning him. He might be tough as a brick. He’s never been stopped. But he’s never been hit by a proper puncher before. There’s MMA punching and boxing punching. It’s different.”
I’m far more interested in Fury’s next bout, again in Riyadh, when he faces Oleksandr Usyk, the IBF, WBA and WBO champion on 23 December. The winner will become the first undisputed world heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis held all the belts in 1999. “It’s the fight of the century,” Fury says. “So it’s obviously a meaningful fight.”
Usyk is also a masterful boxer. “Is he?” Fury asks me evenly. “Is he any better than the rest of these people? I’m not sure he is. He had a 50-50 fight with Del Boy [Derek Chisora]. Even Daniel Dubois had a lot of success against him. Without being rude to those guys, they’re little more than a heavy bag on legs walking forward. Even AJ [Anthony Joshua who has lost twice to Usyk] had a lot of opportunity and he didn’t do anything. Just walked forward with his hands up around his head, terrified of what’s coming back and didn’t use his advantages. Do you really think, after all these years of knowing me, I’m going to be happy to lose on points against a guy like that? Oh my God. Please.”
The stateside view through the lens of US rightsholder ESPN has been grim. The slapdash production of the pay-per-view telecast (at odds with the $79.99 price tag), the glossing-over of any inconvenient underpinnings, the breathless cheerleading of Riyadh Season in effective concert with the Saudi tourism board, the collectively optimistic appraisal of Ngannou’s chances that’s bordered on journalistic negligence … the Worldwide Leader hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory in their straightfaced coverage of today’s circus.
As we wait for Lil Baby and Becky G, here’s Donald McRae’s look at the reality beyond the desert glitz:
It’s difficult to be indignant about just sporting greed, or even the heavily hyped Battle of the Baddest between Fury and Ngannou, when something terrible remains lodged in the heart of Saudi society. And so the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo gave Ngannouwhen they recently met in Riyadh does not matter much amid the darker reality of Saudi.
On Monday I spoke to Lina al-Hathloul, a Saudi Arabian woman in exile in Belgium. Her sister Loujain al-Hathloul is the most internationally renowned female activist in Saudi Arabia. Loujain, 34, led the protests against the state ban which prevented women from being able to drive a car. She was arrested numerous times before, in March 2018, her family claim she was kidnapped in the United Arab Emirates and brought back to Saudi Arabia, where she was jailed for 1,001 days until her release in February 2021.
Loujain went on hunger strike to protest against being denied contact with her family. After her parents were finally allowed to visit her in prison they alleged that Loujain suffered beatings, electric shocks and waterboarding while being threatened with rape and murder. She was nominated for the Nobel peace prize in 2019 and 2020 but Loujain’s personal plight remains distressing.
The Saudi state lifted the ban on women being able to drive in June 2018 but Loujain and Lina claim that far more serious forms of repression have escalated.
“It’s very difficult,” Lina al-Hathloul said as she reveals that her sister’s five-year travel ban and being barred from talking in public have been upheld again. “She is back on an illegal travel ban, as is my family. It’s very stressful because this means you are back on their radar and there’s that potential they are arrested without trial. Loujain is always optimistic and hopeful. But it’s not easy knowing she’s under constant surveillance, banned from talking and can’t travel. She’s isolated while our family also have this travel ban. Why this collective punishment?”
Fabio Wardley has just scored a seventh-round stoppage of David Adeleye. The 28-year-old Ipswich man abruptly dropped his rival with a vicious right-left combination upstairs midway through the seventh. Adeleye made it to his feet but was unable to defend himself as Wardley rushed in to close the show and referee John Latham waved it off at the 2:43 mark.
Adeleye, who suffered his first defeat in 13 professional fights, shoved the referee afterward in protest of what he believed to be a premature stoppage and will almost surely face a fine.
Next up: what’s been breathlessly described as an “Olympic opening ceremony-level” pre-fight production featuring Lil Baby and Becky G. Then it’ll be time for Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou.
Ye is in the building. The Jesus Walks rapper is a personal guest of Turki Al-Sheikh, the minister in charge of entertainment at the Saudi royal court, one of dozens of celebrities and former fighters who are in Riyadh for tonight’s spectacle.
Here’s where things stand with today’s order of play. So far we’ve breezed through the all-heavyweight pay-per-view undercard:
Martin Bakole TKO 4 Carlos Takam
Moses Itauma TKO 1 István Bernáth
Arslanbek Makhmudov TKO 1 Junior Anthony Wright Jr
Joseph Parker KO 3 Simon Kean
The final preliminary bout has just gotten under way and it’s the best of the crop: a scheduled 12-round scrap between unbeaten British prospects Fabio Wardley (16-0, 15 KOs) and David Adeleye (12-0, 11 KOs).
Hello and welcome to Riyadh’s Kingdom Arena for tonight’s crossover match between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou. It’s been billed as the Battle of the Baddest: a scheduled 10-round boxing match between the finest heavyweight boxer of his generation, unbeaten in 34 paying fights, against a former UFC champion with no professional boxing experience who hasn’t fought in nearly two years. It doesn’t take an expert to know how this one will play out.
But we groundlings love a sideshow and always have, making us susceptible to promotional stunts like these for as as long as anyone can remember. There was Ali’s risible fight with the Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki in 1976, widely regarded as the most embarrassing moment of the Greatest’s career. There were Jesse Owens’ lamentable match races against thoroughbred horses, a humiliating comedown for the Olympic hero who had stared down Hitler in Berlin. There was the much-ballyhooedat Toronto’s SkyDome to determine the title of world’s fastest man. And, of course, Floyd Maywether v Conor McGregor, perhaps the closest analogue to the mundanity afoot.
Contrary to early reports, tonight’s fight is not an exhibition and will count as an official bout. However, Fury’s WBC heavyweight title will not be on the line.
“I need to be on my ‘A’ game because there’s more on the line now than a boxing fight,” Fury said. “If I lost to an MMA guy, I’m never going to be able to show my face in public again. There’s going to be ridicule and people are going to chuck it in my face forever. There’s more riding on this than there ever has been before.”
We’re around an hour from the main event ringwalks. Plenty to come between now and then.
Bryan will be here shortly. Here’s our Donald McRae’s lookahead to today’s main event.