In the lead-up to Tyson Fury’s heavyweight crossover bout with Francis Ngannou, the English boxer was confidently predicting that he would knock his Cameroonian-French opponent out inside six rounds. At the end of their ten-round showdown in Riyadh, however, Fury’s heart would have been in his mouth as the ringside judges totted up their final scores.
Ngannou had managed to send Fury to the canvas in the third round and was very much still standing at the end after delivering a thrilling performance on the night; Fury’s legacy hung in the balance as the official verdict was handed to Michael Buffer. The legendary announcer would allay Fury’s fears after informing the watching world that Fury had won by way of a split decision.
Fury may have won but his reputation took a beating
Fury had never flirted this close to catastrophe in his career and despite winning, his reputation took a severe knock. This can be seen in the Paddy Power boxing odds with Fury’s price going up to 8/13 to beat Oleksandr Usyk when the pair go toe to toe on the 17th of February 2024.
Furthermore, the latest sports predictions are also far more open to the idea that Usyk will win, and at odds of just 11/8, the Ukranian looks like a value bet after Fury’s unconvincing display in Saudi Arabia against a man who had never stepped foot into a professional boxing ring before.
Success breeds complacency
As for how to explain Fury’s uncharacteristically lethargic performance, the likelihood is that the 35-year-old was overly complacent coming into the fight.
In other words, Fury may not have been pushing himself to meet his usual high standards in his training camp before the bout given that by his own admission, Ngannou was not seen as a credible threat.
To some extent, you can understand why Fury might not have felt threatened by Ngannou when you consider the extreme challenges he has been able to overcome in his own career to get to the summit of boxing.
At least, after beating Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder - two of the best heavyweights of modern times, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Fury would soundly outclass a man who made his name in the UFC Octagon. To that end, Fury was priced at 1/12 to beat Ngannou which goes to show that the confidence in him making light work of the former UFC heavyweight was felt across the board.
Perhaps Fury was lured into this false sense of security by the outside noise and his past accomplishments but allowing himself to drop his guard almost derailed his career and ended his unbeaten record.
Once bitten, twice shy
It is highly unlikely that Fury will leave anything to chance going forward, and will instead return to a training regime that has earned him the tag of the greatest heavyweight of his generation and one of the finest of all time. The stark reality is if Fury doesn’t apply himself in the build-up to his unification heavyweight title fight with Usyk then the Ukrainian won’t need 12 rounds to win the bout.
Prepping never stops pic.twitter.com/5rl58ltscA— Oleksandr Usyk (@usykaa) October 28, 2023
Indeed, if Ngannou was able to send Fury to the canvas for only the seventh time in the Englishman’s esteemed career then Usyk would have no problem doing the same, only this time the Ukranian has the skill and experience to see the job through.
Fury’s advisors will be warning him of this which is why the expectation is that the world will see a much-improved version of Fury on February 17th.
This is, after all, the biggest fight of Fury’s career and the one which can secure his legacy forever. Should Fury win, it’s likely that the close shave against Ngannou will be seen as a blessing in disguise, as it led to the 35-year-old leaving no stone unturned in the quest to beat the formidable Usyk.