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Ngannou Is NOT That Guy

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PHOENIX, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 17: Francis Ngannou of Cameroon celebrates his KO victory over Cain Velasquez in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 17, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Cameroonian former UFC Heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou, has recently declared his intentions to enter the sport of boxing, in a recent interview with MMA podcaster Ariel Helwani. After a dispute of sorts with UFC CEO Dana White over contract earnings, Ngannou has decided to leave the UFC and pursue either a different or similar career path where he aims to be paid according to his worth.

Francis Ngannou’s intent to enter the sport of boxing is not new. In the past couple of years since Conor McGregor’s fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., more MMA fighters have transitioned to the sport of boxing, most notably Anderson Silva, Cristiane Justino (Cyborg) and Vitor Belfort are some of the biggest names that have taken up professional boxing.

Accordingly, they have faced opponents of their caliber; other ‘rookies’ in the sport of boxing ,whether they hail from MMA or have roots in amateur boxing or training. While McGregor did make his boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr., that bout can safely be considered a one-off considering the wide disparity between the skill level of a professional boxer, and that of a MMA fighter getting into the sport.

It is clear, and obvious, that MMA fighters do not instantly become top-level boxers, even if they had some relative boxing training in their MMA careers. Ngannou, would therefore not fare any better than aforementioned fighters against top boxers, yet because of his status as one of the strongest fighters in the world, fights have been entertained with boxers such as Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua.

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Tyson Fury is one of the top Heavyweights most often linked with fighting Francis Ngannou, and he has openly expressed interest in a potential fight with the Cameroonian. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Granted, Francis Ngannou does seem to have a background in professional boxing, and though he never competed as an amateur, he did have a fair share of training; enough to believe to the point he traversed many obstacles – including homelesness – to eventually gain the opportunity to do MMA. According to his story, he was very close to actually competing as a professional boxer, but found his calling in MMA instead.

Francis Ngannou story is one of hard work and perseverance, but the truth is that in boxing, there are many that have similar stories, compounded with more training, experience and therefore a higher development in their chosen field of boxing. While he is known as one of the hardest punchers in the world, boxing is not just a sport of power, but speed, skill and fundamentals play an important role in the sport. It is not just unlikely that he stands a chance against the top boxers of the Heavyweight division, it is completely unfeasible.

Many of the Heavyweight top fighters have an extensive background in amateur boxing, and the pro boxing bouts they took to get to their spot, make them some of the most dangerous athletes in all of sport. Ngannou is a behemoth when it comes to his own lane within MMA, but there is no significant evidence he can even beat the top 100 Heavyweights of boxing. While he does sport an impressive number of records within the UFC, and MMA overall, Ngannou has never shown the capability to match even the more fringe fighters of the Heavyweight division.

The speculation of him fighting any of the aforementioned top Heavyweights is completely premature and sensational, given he has not even made his boxing debut yet. There have been cases of fighters from other sports transitioning to boxing and having decent success, such as Tyrone Spong, a former Kickboxing champion, and even Dillian Whyte can be included on that list considering his background in both Kickboxing and MMA, but even they had to take a quite lengthy road and at least a double-digit number of fights to even be considered for a shot against the top.

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Tyrone Spong was the latest name. outside of boxing. to enter the sport relatively late yet find a decent amount of success.

While a fight between Ngannou and one of the top fighters would undoubtedly be entertaining, it would take away the opportunity for more deserving fighters. Jermaine Franklin, for example, an American hopeful contender who recently impressed in a fight against Dillian Whyte, and was rumored to be facing Anthony Joshua in the near-future. It would not be too unreasonable to state that he would deserve a shot at a top Heavyweight, rather than a Francis Ngannou.

And there are many other Heavyweights like Franklin who have been itching for a shot at the top, to name a few Joe Joyce, Frank Sanchez and Filip Hrgovic are just some of the names who are heavily-deserving of a chance, yet seem to fail to gain a significant opportunity to face the top boxers, even with some having a status as an interim or mandatory champion.

Ngannou’s reputation as the heaviest Heavyweight hitter in MMA still doesn’t warrant a fight with any of the top 10, top 15 or even top 50 in boxing. Not to belittle or misjudge Ngannou’s achievements within the sport of MMA, but there needs to be a clear line to help MMA fighters who transition to boxing understand the real dangers associated with fighting boxers who have more than a decade of experience against the best of their peers.

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JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – MAY 09: Francis Ngannou of Cameroon punches Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname in their heavyweight fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

There also needs to be some recognition from these same top boxers in realizing that Ngannou has some work to do before he can even be considered for a fight. Many of these same boxers are heavily-involved with their own careers and legacies, and a Ngannou fight – though monetarily very beneficial – does not do them any favors in the long run. Tyson Fury, for example, is currently said to be in talks to fight Oleksandr Usyk which would be a momentous occassion as their bout would be for undisputed – something that hasn’t occurred since Lennox Lewis became an undisputed Heavyweight champion in 1999, and in the current four-belt era there has yet to even be an undisputed Heavyweight champion.

As illustrated recently with our story on Ronald Chacon, having a 0-0 fighter on your record when you’re considered one of the best in your division doesn’t make you a better fighter in any sense of the word. A Francis Ngannou fight will be very profitable, but it offers Ngannou himself no real opportunity to improve either, and can even stagnate his boxing career depending on the damage he would take in that fight. It is also highly unlikely that he can even make it to the amount of rounds these boxers usually fight in, and like Floyd Mayweather Jr. demonstrated with Mcgregor, boxers can accrue significant damage when dealing with fatigue in combat which prevents them from properly defending themselves.

It is best that, if Francis Ngannou is genuine in his intent to enter the sport of boxing, that he moves his way up the ladder with opponents who are rather new or unaccustomed to professional boxing – whether they were amateurs or not – and progressively fight better opponents. That is the only legitimate and rational way in which Ngannou can, and should, be considered as a credible opponent for the top Heavyweights.