“Oof” is the way Francis Ngnanou starts to describe what it’s like to be cornered by Mike Tyson for his fight with Tyson Fury.
As much as Tyson has mellowed over the years with age, the warrior that once terrified the heavyweight boxing division is still there.
“He’s very intense,” Ngannou continued. “It’s about volume. It’s about pressure. It’s pressing, pressing. I remember the first time we trained together, and then the next day, he was like, ‘Are you sore?’ I’m like, ‘No.’ [He said], ‘That’s a mistake.’
“And then, I wake up the next day…I was sore from the second training.”
In his heyday, Tyson’s pressure and volume were two of his biggest weapons, and Ngannou hopes enough of that technique rubs off on him for the biggest fight of his life, a shot at heavyweight boxing champ Tyson Fury on Saturday in Saudi Arabia.
Fury was named after Tyson, so Ngannou’s choice of corners could be seen as a mind game of the fight business. Ngannou doesn’t appear to play along with that sort of thing, but he also doesn’t seem to mind if others want to make their own conclusions.
If Fury finds Tyson’s presence in his corner “annoying,” Ngannou laughed “that’s his problem.”
“At this point, I’m not concerned of what annoys Tyson Fury,” he added. “It’s the sport. That’s how the sport works. Sometimes, you have a guy that you love, sometimes you have a brother that fights a friend, sometimes you have a friend that fights somebody that you actually like.
“Your heart is always going to be in one side, but maybe if he wasn’t fighting that guy, you would support him. But it happens. It’s a combat sport.”
Ngannou is a massive underdog to upset Fury, whose record – but not belts – will be on the line Saturday.
Footage of Ngannou’s training with Mike Tyson drew howls of mockery from online commenters. Fury’s father, John Fury, questioned whether it was a joke – and Team Fury subsequently targeted a heavyweight title unifier with Oleksandr Usyk for December.
On Saturday, Ngannou will have former champ Tyson in his corner along with his MMA coaches Eric Nicksick and Dewey Cooper – and a boxing coach from his former home in France. Of that crew, Tyson will carry the most experience and authority – and maybe, just maybe, the key to shocking the world.