While teasing retirement, Tyson Fury issued a mixed message by bringing his friend, Francis Ngannou, to the center of the ring following his sixth-round knockout of Dillian Whyte on Saturday night at Wembley Stadium.
The unbeaten WBC champion loves the idea of facing the UFC champ in some sort of hybrid bout between boxing’s best big man and mixed martial arts’ heavyweight equivalent. Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter, would welcome that type of high-profile event as well, though it likely would require his company, Top Rank Inc., to work with UFC president Dana White.
Arum and White have remained at odds publicly for quite some time, but both of their companies have exclusive content deals with ESPN. Ngannou’s eight-fight deal with UFC expired after his last bout, but UFC reportedly retains his promotional rights due to a champion’s clause in his contract.
Cameroon’s Ngannou (17-3, 12 KOs, 4 submissions) is recovering from serious knee injuries sustained before and worsened during his most recent fight – a five-round, unanimous-decision win over Ciryl Gane on January 22 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
That marked the first time the 35-year-old Ngannou went the distance in an MMA match that he won. The former amateur boxer also has lost three decisions.
If Ngannou recovers from his damaged anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial collateral ligament in time to face Fury later this year, Arum believes they would establish a new pay-per-view record for a battle between a boxer and an MMA fighter.
“This UFC guy, assuming that he’s able to fight, that’ll do monumental business,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “They know each other and they know how much there is to be made for that fight. I think Fury and this UFC heavyweight champion, Ngannou, do bigger business than Mayweather and McGregor.”
Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor drew approximately 4.2 million pay-per-view buys when they boxed in August 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Mayweather’s adopted hometown. Mayweather, boxing’s former pound-for-pound king, easily defeated Ireland’s McGregor, who lost by 10th-round technical knockout in his first professional boxing match.
Mayweather’s win two years earlier against Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao is the only boxing match to have drawn more pay-per-view buys than Mayweather-McGregor. That welterweight title fight drew approximately 4.6 million buys in May 2015, when Mayweather out-pointed Pacquiao unanimously in their 12-round welterweight title fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Mayweather-McGregor also produced a live gate of nearly $55.5 million, the second highest in Nevada boxing history, behind only Mayweather-Pacquiao (nearly $72.2 million).
Manchester’s Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs) primarily helped draw a capacity crowd of about 94,000 to Wembley Stadium in London for his stoppage of London’s Whyte (28-3, 19 KOs). The announced attendance Saturday night established a European record for boxing attendance.
Ngannou suggested a “hybrid fight with a different type of rules” while he stood beside Fury on Saturday night. The UFC champion also stated that they would wear smaller MMA gloves, but that their fight would take place in a boxing ring.
“And we’re gonna find out who is the baddest motherf----- on the planet,” Ngannou told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna. “I’ll give a couple months [to recover], and I’ll be right back on my feet.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.