Last weekend we saw a spectacle and a fantastic advert as to what hard work and determination can do. Although he didn’t get the decision on the night (which many have been seen as controversial in itself), Francis Ngannou won the hearts of many, proved almost everyone wrong and showcased legitimate boxing skills against the lineal heavyweight king, Tyson Fury.
Fury struggled in this one because he couldn’t figure out the boxing debutant’s style, was mirrored every time he switched southpaw but most importantly, he wasn’t able to bully Ngannou in the clinch.
Is this what has made Fury so successful previously? And does it give a hint as to how he’ll try and box in the future?
Fury’s Size vs. Ngannou’s
Simply put, a man of Fury’s size shouldn’t be able to move the way in which he does. Towering at a huge 6 ft 9 in, he holds the height advantage over almost everyone he’s faced. On top of this, his 85 inch reach is colossal and he knows exactly how to utilise it.
Against Ngannou, he weighed in at 19st 8lb (277.7lbs) and he’s often in and around that weight. He weighed in slightly lighter in his last fight against Derek Chisora, coming in at 268.8lbs. For his Deontay Wilder rematch, he weighed 273lbs. Interestingly, back in 2015 when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko, he came in at just 247lbs.
Comparing this to Ngannou, he should have been able to control the Cameroonian much easier than he did. The Predator stands at 6ft 4 in tall with a 83 inch reach. For context, this is five inches smaller than Fury and also a two inch reach deficit. He also weighed less than Fury, coming in at 19 st 4 lbs (272lbs). We have to take into account that he had to weigh under the 265lbs limit for all of his UFC title bouts, so to have the freedom to weigh in at whatever weight must have been a burden lifted off his shoulders.
The difference, however, is how heavily muscled Ngannou is. He’s ridiculously strong, explosively powerful which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Of course, it means that the lactic acid build up in his heavily muscled frame becomes an issue far sooner than it would in someone of Fury’s stature.
Ngannou’s powerful frame played a huge part in his success in this one as well as his history of working inside the clinch (in a grappling sense) from his MMA background.
At no point during the full 10 rounds was Fury able to bully Ngannou in the clinch. We’ve often seen him do this against smaller fighters, Wilder in particular. It was safer for Fury to be in the clinch with Wilder (due to his power) than it was for him to box at range. He attempted a similar tactic against Ngannou, however, the former UFC heavyweight champion was much more talented in avoiding clinch situations, punishing Fury when he did try and clinch and not allowing the WBC champion to lean on him to fatigue him.
Something that Ngannou did very well was look to break from the clinch early. He used his strength to ‘muscle’ out of of clinch situations and rarely got hit on the break, a common mistake in novice boxers.
He also used the clinch to work offensively. He tied The Gypsy King up multiple times with a collar tie and was able to land shots, particularly the uppercut. The tie was used to control Fury’s head and limit his defensive movement in order to allow Ngannou to land shots.
Staying in the Pocket
Ngannou had trust in both his power, ability and chin. It was rare to see the PFL star take a big step back when he was in the pocket with Fury. He was willing to trade with Fury on the inside and ultimately, this is what got him the 10-8 round in the third with the knockdown.
FRANCIS NGANNOU KNOCKDOWN TYSON FURY IN ROUND 3‼️🥊🤯 pic.twitter.com/odMkoJ17Qa
— IFN (@IfnBoxing) October 28, 2023
He kept his technique (in the clinch) tight, allowing him to land on Fury multiple times. It did get sloppy in the clinch, with Fury clearly landing an elbow on Ngannou, however, luckily it didn’t impact the fight.
His willingness to not take a step backwards was what allowed him to have massive success, score the knockdown and almost shock the world.
Mirroring and Hand-fighting
It’s not a hidden secret that Ngannou’s technique, after only months of boxing, should have been nowhere close to Fury’s, a man who has been boxing for as long as he could hold his fists up. He was never going to out-smart the WBC champion in a boxing sense, however, he certainly confused Fury.
Something that has made Fury so dominant throughout his career thus far is his ability to seamlessly switch stances, seemingly being as effective off each hand.
What he possibly expected in this one was for the novice boxer to be one-dimensional. To only fight orthodox, to only look for the knockout shot and to simply wade forwards. Almost every time Fury switched his stance from orthodox to southpaw, Ngannou mirrored him, also switching to southpaw and causing the natural boxer problems.
There’s a good chance that we see Ngannou box at a high-level again, cause problems to the elite fighters at heavyweight and make a big splash in the division. It’s exciting times for the man who supposedly ‘Fumbled the bag’!