Mike Tyson Helped Make Francis Ngannou’s Dream Fight A Reality

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A gym ring is surrounded by cameras. In Las Vegas, Francis Ngannou has made himself available. Ngannou was able to observe the UFC Performance Institute every day for years until 2023, when things started to change. The facility’s main feature is a full-size boxing ring with the name “GIMIK” prominently displayed above it.

A mocking reference to the belief held by some that his entry into the boxing world was really a joke. But today, he does appear to be a boxer, at least superficially. And nobody could help that image more than Mike Tyson, who is by his side.

As he keeps a close eye on Ngannou and his teacher Dewey Cooper, Tyson occasionally stops them to show out technique. Though unexpected are Tyson’s directions, Tyson’s strength is still there.

NGANNOU used to tell people in his small Cameroonian hamlet of Batie when he was ten years old that he wanted to one day compete professionally as a heavyweight boxer, just like “Iron” Mike Tyson.

It was an absurd concept, as many had informed him. There was no boxing gym in Batie, a town of only thousands of people. Ngannou was not a television owner.

Even without witnessing Tyson deliver a blow, he fell in love with him. Because Tyson was such a worldwide celebrity at the time, rumors about his strength and ferocity spread throughout Central Africa in the mid-1990s.

However, Ngannou, who was ten years old, only knew him through those tales.

Thankfully, Ngannou never lost the capacity to dream. With closed eyes, he could visualize this powerful knockout artist taking down another man and making off with a large sum of money. His desire to box in the United States was so great that he begged his family to start calling him “American Boy”. His mother disapproved of the nickname and was highly dubious of his aspirations to become a professional boxer, so she forbade them from using it.

In a nontitle fight that he willed into existence, Ngannou, 37, will take on Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) on Saturday in the boxing arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (2 p.m. ESPN+ PPV).

His life narrative is so implausible that Hollywood would reject the script. In his twenties, he undertook a torturous 14-month journey from Cameroon to Paris via Nigeria, Morocco, and Spain. Eight years after his first training session, he was the UFC heavyweight champion. In 2022, he left the organization as its heavyweight champion to pursue a deal that would enable him to follow his childhood passion of boxing professionally.

He’s taking on Fury, the world’s heavyweight boxing champion by lineage, in his boxing debut. If that weren’t enough, how about this for another impossibility become a reality? Prior to this, Ngannou was trained by none other than Mike Tyson. Tyson joined Ngannou’s team in late July to help oversee his training.