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Fury-Usyk matchup details and how Ngannou can ruin the plan

Finally, Tyson Fury and Alexander Usyk will battle for heavyweight supremacy.

Fury and Usyk have signed contracts to fight for the undisputed heavyweight title in Saudi Arabia, sources told ESPN on Friday. The game will likely take place on December 23 or sometime in January.

This isn’t just a fight for titles in all four weight classes, though. This is a generational showdown between boxing’s all-time greats. This will be a rare meeting of heavyweights with both men ranked in the top 10 (Usyk is third; Fury is sixth.)

Before facing his toughest challenge yet, Fury will face former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou on October 28 in Saudi Arabia, which serves as a warm-up for the Usyk showdown.

Who will have the upper hand when Fury and Usyk fight for the heavyweight crown? What would happen if Ngannou pulled off an unimaginable upset? Let’s break it down:

What’s the danger?

Legacy…boasts himself as the greatest heavyweight of the era.

Fury and Usyk are already first-ballot Hall of Famers, but what happens in the ring will go a long way toward cementing their place on the mythical list of all-time great heavyweights.

Fury was widely criticized when the Usyk fight fell through in March, months before he signed to fight an MMA fighter. Fury has now found success, holding not one but two heavyweight bouts within months of each other.

He could use the Ngannou fight as a way to shake off the ring rust and get into prime form for Usyk, a smaller, faster heavyweight who Will hopefully beat Fury.

If Fury can reverse Usyk – and he will certainly be the betting favorite at this point – he will go down as the greatest heavyweight boxer of this generation. Wladimir Klitschko had a longer reign, but Fury ended it in 2015 with a win over Usyk to add another to his resume Hall of Fame member.

A win would mean even more for Usyk. He followed in the footsteps of the great Evander Holyfield, another fighter who dominated the lightweight division and eventually won a career-defining heavyweight title. In 1996, Holyfield defeated Mike Tyson in a heavyweight title thriller before the infamous “Bite Fight” rematch.

If he wins, Usyk will effectively prove that the ESPN championship is occupied by Terence Crawford.


How about the Fury vs. Ngannou fight?

Play

2:00

Mike Tyson: Fury vs. Ngannou won’t be as one-sided as people think

Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim sit down with Mike Tyson and Francis Ngannou to discuss Ngannou’s fight with Tyson Rich Tyson Fury’s mentality and strategy in his first boxing match.

Ngannou is one of the biggest names in combat sports, and his fight with Fury will only fuel more interest in a matchup with Usyk.

But there is still some danger when a boxer fights two fights in a row. When Ngannou met in a non-title fight, no one gave Ngannou, who had never boxed before, much of a chance against the all-time great Fury. But this is a heavyweight fight and strange things happen.

It’s an incredibly long shot, but Ngannou is a big-bodied guy (6-foot-4, 257 pounds) with real power in his hands. If he shoots with precision, who knows what could happen?

More likely than an upset for Ngannou: the possibility of Fury getting injured. It’s still a fight and if Fury gets injured, it could delay the fight with Usyk, which could take place as early as December 23.

“Tyson Fury is one of the best fighters of all time,” former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi. Miocic defeated Ngannou in 2018 but was knocked out in the rematch. “But listen, it’s a fight. Francis hits hard and moves well. I just hope he shocks the world.”


What about the common sanctioned body pranks?

When it comes to undisputed title fights, the rules of the four major sanctioning bodies often cloud the proceedings. But no one will stop the lucrative sanction fees that come with such a super fight.

The WBA mandatory fight was settled when Usyk defeated Daniel Dubois via low blow in the ninth round in August. WBC president Mauricio Suleiman has said there is currently no imposition for Fury.

Filip Hrgovic is the IBF’s top contender and is now trying to get his shot, but he’ll have to wait until Fury and Usyk meet in the ring first.

Zhang Zhilei became the WBO heavyweight interim champion after defeating Joe Joyce by TKO in the third round in last week’s rematch. This could give him a chance to become a winner in the near future. Like Fury, Chang was promoted by Frank Warren.


How do Fury and Usyk pair up?

Fury is a rare gifted boxer who can land a precise jab and land a clean shot off the back foot. He’s incredibly light on his feet for a 6-foot-9, 270-pound guy and showed what he can do when he beat Klitschko in 2015.

Over the past few years, Fury has tweaked his style. Now, he prefers to slam into his opponents, using his immense size and weight to drain them and break them down in a fight. Fury used this strategy to great effect in his second and third fights with Deontay Wilder – brutally beating arguably the greatest boxer in heavyweight history.

Fury will likely use the same approach against Usyk.

Why would Fury try to beat a masterclass boxer in Usyk when he can make 50 pounds more weight on fight night? He can lean on Usyk and drain the energy out of his legs.

Usyk, meanwhile, will certainly use angles and precise footwork to time Fury’s counterattacks and stay out of harm’s way. Usyk needs to keep the fight in the middle of the ring and avoid being bullied to the ropes. He already has experience fighting bigger, stronger opponents in his 24-round fight with Anthony Joshua, who may be a better boxer than Fury. Although he’s certainly not on Fury’s level as a boxer.

Usyk is also a southpaw, which has caused problems for Fury in the past. Just look at Otto Wallin’s game, where he struggled to get a decisive victory.

This fight can be won by either side, but Fury has the slight edge.

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