Francis Ngannou says his confidence only grew after his lone public encounter with Tyson Fury.

Ngannou, the decorated former UFC champion, is scheduled to make his boxing debut on Oct. 28 in Saudi Arabia against no less a fighter than Fury, the WBC heavyweight titlist who is considered by some to be the top talent in the division. The heavyweight extravaganza has been called by some critics as a disgraceful mismatch and cash grab, while supporters have praised it as the kind of event that can capture the attention of the mainstream sporting public. Boxing fans in particular were hoping that Fury would fight unified champion Oleksandr Usyk instead to decide a single champion in the division.

Ngannou, of French-Cameroonian descent, parted ways with the UFC earlier this year, which paved the way for him to sign a deal to face Fury. Ngannou also signed an MMA deal with the PFL.

The two fighters have teased a fight for some time. Indeed, in April of 2022, moments after Fury knocked out Dillian Whyte in the sixth round, Ngannou greeted Fury in the ring for an informal and cordial face-off. Of that meeting, Ngannou, whose official height is listed as six-foot-four, said he was not intimidated in any way by Fury, who stands at six-foot-nine. If nothing else, Ngannou said he saw a few cracks in his otherwise imposing opponent.  

“Well, I saw a human, a human being that can be beat up,” Ngannou said of seeing Fury the night he knocked out Whyte in an interview with BBC 5 Live Boxing. “Obviously, it was his night. He was there, he put on a show. I loved the performance that he put on that night against Dillian Whyte. It was a great knock out.

“Everybody is beatable. I was there kind of sizing him up, OK, I think I can take this guy. I mean it’s not going to be easy. It’s boxing. It’s a new sport. And even if it’s MMA I never take any opponent easily, like, I put everything in the work and give everything in the octagon. And it’s gonna be the same thing this time. Basically, I know that this is a new area for me, it’s not my comfort zone, but trust me, I’m gonna give everything. Be ready and when I get there, I’m gonna put on a show. I’m gonna give everything in the ring. I think that I can take Tyson down.”

Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.