George Groves doesn’t just think Tyson Fury’s fight with Francis Ngannou will simply delay his title unification showdown with Oleksandr Usyk.
The retired former WBA super middleweight champion, now an analyst for Sky Sports, believes Fury’s subpar performance against Ngannou has convinced him to not face Usyk at all. The tentative date for their fight was December 23, but neither Frank Warren, Fury’s co-promoter, nor Fury himself would commit to December 23 in the immediate aftermath of his 10-round, split-decision victory over Ngannou on Saturday night because Fury suffered a small cut on the lower left side of his forehead and experienced a tougher fight than anticipated.
“There is not a chance the Usyk fight is happening on that date,” Groves told Sky Sports on Wednesday. “It is not Usyk on December 23. I don’t think it’s Usyk next. I think it’s either Ngannou or that’s the last of Fury. He tells everyone he is ‘The Gypsy King,’ that he is the man, no fighter can ever beat him. There is someone right now who can beat him and it’s Usyk. A lot of people will think the same. He doesn’t need to roll the dice and get beat [by] the little gap-toothed Ukrainian guy.”
The significant complication, of course, is that England’s Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) and Ukraine’s Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) have signed contracts reportedly to fight twice, not only once. Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion who fought Fury in his pro boxing debut, didn’t have a rematch clause in his contract for their pay-per-view main event at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Groves nevertheless believes that the 35-year-old Manchester native’s struggles against Ngannou have changed his mind about boxing the left-handed Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight champ who owns the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles.
“He’d rather just sail off into the sunset,” Groves said. “He is an interesting character and there are lots of avenues he can explore after boxing. Doors that might be shut on him or not the same if he loses to Usyk. I think he is going to either rectify the last fight against Ngannou, which he will get paid a lot of money for and a lot of people would be interested in. He will train better and show up and perform. Or he might retire.”
The heavily favored Fury defeated the hard-hitting Ngannou on the scorecards of judges Juan Carlos Pelayo (96-93) and Alan Krebs (95-94). Judge Ed Garner gave Ngannou, who floored Fury with a counter left hook late in the third round, a one-point win on his card.
“There is no way [Fury] didn’t wake up the next morning [after the Ngannou fight] with loads of doubts. ‘Have I still got it anymore? Why could I not handle this guy comfortably?,’ ” Groves said. “He might be questioning, ‘Do I really want to do it anymore?’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.