Considering the stir Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou caused this past October, should fight fans expect to see the two heavyweight titans rematch in the future?
“I think there’s a good chance of that happening. I do,” Fury’s promoter, Queensberry Promotions founder Frank Warren, said Monday on The MMA Hour.
“I don’t know [if it’ll be next for Fury]. It’s like jumping too far forward. Let’s get the big one [with Oleksandr Usyk on Feb. 17] out of the way first, and then we’ll see where we go. But I do think [it’ll happen]. Tyson told me that he wants the rematch, and I know Ngannou wants it, because after the fight we were out there, we met at His Excellency [Turki Alalshikh]’s house and we had quite a lengthy conversation. He’s a nice guy, by the way. He’s a really nice guy, good team around him, and I’m quite sure we’ll do it again.”
Ngannou, 37, stunned the sporting world on Oct. 28 in Saudi Arabia when he fought to a controversial split decision against Fury in his professional boxing debut. The former UFC heavyweight champion knocked down Fury in the third round and ultimately gave boxing’s lineal heavyweight king all he could handle in one of the most shocking and remarkable performances of 2023. Ngannou has since been officially slotted at No. 10 in the WBC’s updated rankings and remains one of the hottest names in all of combat sports.
Warren said he expected Ngannou to be a tougher challenge than most fans and pundits anticipated, but even he was surprised by just how competitive the fight became.
“There was no video footage to look at of Ngannou in a ring. All you could look at him of was in an MMA match, in UFC as it was. And when I looked at that, I could see him as a tough guy,” Warren said. “He’s a big competitor, he’s strong, so I knew that if it was coming into clinches or whatever — Tyson, as he’s fought in his last four fights, where he stood toe-to-toe with people and slugged it out in some cases, like he did with Deontay Wilder, he didn’t do what he used to do in the past, which was to get up on his toes and box, use his jab. He actually stood there and traded with him. And I thought that if they do that, I don’t want him getting in these clinches with Ngannou, because I felt that he’d be used to that.
“But when that first bell went and he came out and I watched as he shapes up, I thought to myself, ‘Oh, this is not what I’m expecting. This is not.’ Normally, MMA guys, they’re a bit more square on. He actually had the stance of a boxer, and he could jab and he was switch hitting. And after a couple of rounds, obviously I believed Tyson was winning, but I thought, ‘This is not going to be the job that everybody’s saying it’s going to be.’”
Despite the early knockdown, Fury battled back to eke out a razor-close decision, earning a pair of 96–93 and 95–94 scores, while one judge saw the bout 95-94 for Ngannou. In doing so, Fury not only narrowly avoided what would’ve been one of the biggest upsets in combat sports history, he also avoided a potential disaster for boxing’s heavyweight division, as the long-awaited unification bout between Fury and WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk had already been tentatively scheduled for Dec. 23 in Saudi Arabia.
In the end, Fury vs. Usyk was ultimately postponed to Feb. 17 and a new card featuring Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder competing in separate bouts was constructed for the Dec. 23 event. Warren said Monday that pushing back Fury vs. Usyk was simply “the sensible thing to do” considering the wear and tear Fury experienced against Ngannou.
“Ngannou absolutely came out of that fight as what he should have done — as a hero,” Warren said. “He’d done brilliantly well and he’d put himself into the big picture as far as big, big fights in the future. But Tyson needed a break after that fight. He’d been training off and on all year for fights that we thought were going to be made and they weren’t made, especially with Usyk. And he did train hard for the fight, he had a hard camp for it. And when you’re involved in a big fight and you having back-to-back camps without any timeout, that’s good for you. You’re not letting your battery recharge.
“If we’d have beaten Ngannou [easily] as everybody was predicting would happen — which I didn’t think would happen, but they were saying it could be over in one or two rounds, in a very easy fight — then I think it could’ve been a goer [for December]. But come the sort of sixth, seventh round, that date was going to be put back until next year, because that’s an important fight for Tyson. And for Tyson, he’s now training for a guy that he knows, he’s seen in a ring, in Usyk. He knows what his strengths and his weaknesses are — whereas, the same with Ngannou, he didn’t. So it was the sensible thing to do.”
Warren added that he believes Ngannou’s performance was no fluke. He expects “The Predator” to continue making noise in boxing’s heavyweight division for the foreseeable future.
“Look, I’d like to think I know about boxing,” Warren said. “I’ve guided a lot of champions over the years, and a lot of my guys have gone into fights, certainly with my fellow promoters in America — Don King and Bob [Arum] and so forth — as underdogs, and have won, and we’ve picked the right matches at the right time and won the fights.
“I think Ngannou will give any of the guys in the top 10 — and he’s ranked now, I think couple of the organizations have dropped him in there, and they should do it, he’s just gone the distance with the world champion — I think it’ll give all of them a problem, and there’s a couple of them there I think he could beat.”