ALL ABOARD THE RIYADH EXPRESS
By Frank Warren
IF ANYBODY DOUBTED the scale and gravity of the forthcoming cross-code heavyweight spectacular between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou then Thursday evening’s media event provided ample evidence of what to expect when the big men open up Riyadh Season on October 28.
The London launch attracted media representatives from across the globe at a level rarely witnessed in any sport. The backdrop to proceedings was breathtaking and those in attendance soon realised the size of event we are entering into.
It is only going to get bigger the closer we get to departure for Saudi Arabia.
Tyson was in fine form, as usual, and the groundbreaking nature of this encounter is certainly igniting the fire in his belly.
There is no doubt in my mind that Tyson is now, quite probably, the most recognisable and popular sportsman on the planet. He has transcended boxing and, personality-wise, you have to bracket him with Muhammad Ali.
His extracurricular activities only serve to increase his popularity and recognition. His Netflix series has attracted the highest ever ratings in the UK and his three books quickly fell into the best-seller category.
And don’t forget his dabble in the world of wrestling a few years ago with the WWE, which also featured as part of Riyadh Season. So he is not entering into unfamiliar territory come the back end of October.
For this Riyadh Season event there will be a specially constructed venue to stage the fight and beforehand Tyson and Francis will be the subject of some serious global media exposure.
I know and understand that a section of boxing fans don’t like the fight, but I am not going to blather on any longer over the shenanigans we encountered in attempting to make the fights we all want.
I just believe we shouldn’t underestimate Francis Ngannou – and seeing him in person has only reinforced this view. He will come to fight and I shouldn’t imagine for a minute that he will be an easy knockover job.
He is robust, battle-hardened and powerful. And, according to our man Joe Joyce, he is not a bad boxer. However, in no way do I expect him to try and outbox Tyson.
Francis will come with the express aim of landing the heavy artillery and, should it get over-physical in there, we need a strong referee on the night.
Can he bully and intimidate Tyson? That is the question and many millions of eyes will be trained on Riyadh on October 28 to find out.