Tyson Fury v Francis Ngannou: I’ll be disappointed if it’s not war – FuryVenue: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Date: Saturday, 28 OctoberCoverage: Follow text commentary on BBC Sport website & app from 21:00 BST.
A brash Tyson Fury leaned on and prodded Francis Ngannou as the pair weighed in for their heavyweight clash in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
British WBC champion Fury, 35, weighed 19st 8lb, four pounds heavier than French-Cameroonian Ngannou, 37.
Former UFC champion Ngannou, who is making his boxing debut in Riyadh, pushed Fury back with his chest while the pair exchanged words.
“So many people play mind games, but this can’t get to me,” said Ngannou.
“I’ve been in the game so long now, I consider it a part of the game. It’s nothing personal.”
Fury’s title will not be on the line in the 10-round fight and it remains unclear if the contest will be considered a professional bout.
Fury, who exuded confidence as he shadow boxed and danced his way on to the stage, dismissed Ngannou’s chances of causing an upset.
“We don’t get paid for long, we get paid for short, and I’m gonna make it nice and short for him,” said Fury.
“It’s like a table tennis champion facing Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final – it’s totally different.
“Boxing is a gentlemen’s sport. It’s a sweet science, the biggest and strongest won’t win, it’s the man with the best skills.”
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The winner of the bout, dubbed the ‘Battle of the Baddest’, will receive a commemorative ‘Riyadh champion’ belt, with the fight taking place in a separate ring in an arena adjacent to the undercard bouts.
Introduced by legendary ring announcer Michael Buffer, the weigh-ins were watched by a plethora of stars from the combat sports world including Manny Pacquiao, Joe Calzaghe, Larry Holmes and Chuck Liddell.
In contrast to the confident Fury, Ngannou, dressed in all white and flanked by friend and former UFC champion Israel Adesanya, was more reserved, smiling and acknowledging the crowd as he made his way on stage.
In a friendly gesture, Fury offered to hold Ngannou’s shirt while he flexed his muscular frame on the scales, before making a U-turn and throwing it into the audience.
Boxing purists have criticised Fury for taking on a crossover bout with novice Ngannou rather than facing a ranked contender.
He has also been accused of overlooking Ngannou by signing a deal to face Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk in a historic undisputed heavyweight title fight, mooted for 23 December.
Regarding Usyk, Fury said he’s “only looking forward to Francis Ngannou” and plans to take a week off with his family after the fight, before focusing on the Ukrainian.
Despite being an unknown quantity in boxing, Ngannou boasts an MMA record of 12 knockouts from 17 fights, with three defeats.
The event will form part of ‘Riyadh Season’ – an entertainment events festival held in Saudi Arabia’s capital every year since 2019.
The Saudi Arabian government has reportedly paid big money to host Fury’s bout with Ngannou, but the country’s increased involvement in sport has proven controversial.
Saudi Arabia’s increasing desire to host elite sporting events – including boxing matches, an annual Formula 1 race, and a bid for the 2034 World Cup – has brought scrutiny due to the country’s poor human rights record.
Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, said in September that he “does not care” about accusations that the country is “sportswashing” – investing in sport and using high-profile events to quell criticism of its practices and improve its international reputation.
In August, Saudi border guards were accused in a report by Human Rights Watch of the mass killing of migrants along the Yemeni border. Saudi Arabia has previously rejected allegations of systematic killings.
Saudi Arabia has been criticised for its human rights violations – 81 men were executed on one day last year – women’s rights abuses, the criminalisation of homosexuality, the restriction of free speech, and its involvement in the ongoing war in Yemen.