The 37-year-old Cameroonian, former heavyweight champion of the UFC (main mixed martial arts league), surprised by scheduling a lucrative and intriguing English boxing fight against Fury, the "Gipsy King", king of the heavyweight category, scheduled for October 28 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Tuesday afternoon, in the southwest of Las Vegas, coach Dewey Cooper, covered with protections, is molested by Ngannou, a real mountain with hands dressed in white gloves (1.93 m, nearly 120 kilos). Left-right, hook-uppercut, Cooper leads a precise dance that makes the champion's fists speak.
Further back, black and white cap on his head, Mike Tyson, 57, sometimes intervenes to correct a movement, mimics lightning gestures, under the studious and intimidated gaze of the student Ngannou.
Cameroonian MMA star Francis Ngannou (c) watches his coach Dewey Cooper face off against former American boxer Mike Tyson (r) in Las Vegas, September 26, 2023 © Ian Maule / AFP
"He comes from time to time to lend a hand, his expertise. I had specially asked for him four years ago, well before the fight was announced, the first time I met him, "explains to twenty media the Cameroonian in his calm voice. "He has something inspiring, motivating. If I could ever have a little bit of what he has, boxing would be very easy for me."
Ngannou, who calls Tyson an "idol", has no professional record in boxing. The "Predator," his nickname, earned a reputation as a formidable puncher by becoming UFC heavyweight champion, a title he held until his departure in January because of his acrimonious relationship with the organization's president, Dana White, who was deemed not generous enough.
The Las Vegas resident, who has won 17 of his 20 professional UFC fights, including 12 by knockout, will make more money in this fight against Fury than in his entire UFC career, he says.
Ex-boxer Mike Tyson attends a training session for Cameroonian-French MMA star and boxer Francis Ngannou (not pictured) in Las Vegas, September 26, 2023 © Ian Maule / AFP
The Cameroonian ensures to take this fight very seriously, he who practiced English boxing before his arrival in France in 2012 and his discovery of MMA.
"He's all about fighting, he's working hard, I think people are going to be surprised," Tyson said from the ring in a scratchy voice, barely audible. "I don't know if Fury is nervous, but he would be right to be."
"I'm very proud of him (Ngannou), he is taking on maybe the best fighter in the world. I can't wait to see him take that step towards this impossible feat," added the caption.
The whimsical Fury, aged 35, is indeed undefeated (33 wins, one draw) and reigns supreme over the heavyweight category, despite a disjointed career, between depressive episodes, drug use and some real-false retirements.
WBC champion, the Briton will not put his belt on the line against Ngannou, for a well-contested fight "according to the official rules" of the noble art.
British WBC champion Tyson Fury trains in Los Angeles, October 25, 2018 © John McCoy/Getty Images North America/AFP/Archives
Despite the apparent imbalance, "anything can happen in the heavyweight category," warns Franco-Cameroonian Carlos Takam, another reference in the 42-year-old category, who beat Frenchman Tony Yoka in March in Paris.
"We're talking about behemoths, guys who can get you a shot of 120 kg. Don't be surprised if something happens during this fight. Francis, if he places his shot well, Tyson Fury takes it and does not get up, "says Takam.
The boxer has been preparing with Ngannou since early August in the city of the game, for one of the opening fights on October 28 in Riyadh, against the Congolese Martin Bakole, also ex-faller of Yoka.
"Three months ago nobody believed it," says Ngannou, facing accusations of "bad decision" that could "screw up his career".
"And yet here they are talking to me about the greatest fight in history," smiled the colossus, who also continues his career in MMA, after signing a contract with the PFL organization, a competitor of the UFC.
© 2023 AFP