With boxing at a standstill, it’s been a slow news month, or two. Stories we’d normally ignore are grabbing our attention as, honestly, we’ve got precious little else to focus on. We’ve heard about the comebacks, there’s been talk of bare-knuckle fights, and of course the obligatory crossover conversation.
Within the UFC sphere, Heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou has been raising eyebrows with his power since he first stepped into the ring. The pub chats started almost immediately, ‘Who hits harder Ngannou or Wilder?’, ‘You think he’d KO Fury if he landed a lucky one?’, ‘Would he hit as hard in bigger gloves?’. It was all fun conversation, but nothing we were taking seriously.
Dillian Whyte being the no-nonsense, ready-to-go-at-any-moment guy he is, was quick to say he’d love to welcome Ngannou to boxing, adding “he’s got no chin”. Under UFC rules and in four-ounce gloves, Ngannou could trouble Whyte, but in a boxing ring, it’s another story. Whyte has years of experience and the game’s completely different. The level of pure striking in boxing is far above what you find in the UFC.
For one thing, the UFC guys always seem to forget that one of the main reasons they can land punches, is because their opponent needs to be thinking about kicks and takedowns too. He can’t keep a tight guard around his head because he’d just get taken down or leg-kicked into oblivion.
It’s the same reason a boxer would get destroyed in a Muay-Thai fight, as soon as he clinched to tie up his opponent. he’d get kneed or elbowed because he’s not accustomed to it. In boxing, the clinch is a safe space, in the Muay-Thai and the UFC it’s not.
Vice-versa, landing punches on a guy who is expecting and prepared for nothing but punches, is far more difficult than MMA fighters can understand. It’s why Conor McGregor, one of the UFC’s tops strikers, looked so ridiculous against Mayweather. Not to mention he also gassed out quicker than a Dad on a fun run.
This fight, despite us thinking it was just another hyped-up conversation, now looks like it might go-ahead for real. Eddie Hearn revealed to Sky Sports Boxing that it could happen this year. Hearn has always been a savvy businessman and as one of the youngest promoters, seems to have a pretty good handle on how to attract a new crowd to the sweet science. The fight would obviously bring a lot of fights fans over from the UFC who might not usually have much interest in boxing, once the Ngannou fight is done, a percentage of them are likely to stick around.
Why is this the fight Dillian Whyte is getting offered?
My main problem with this fight is that Dillian Whyte deserves much more than this. Yes it’ll be an easy payday for him and it’s very clear he genuinely loves to have a scrap, but he’s well overdue a WBC title fight, he’s overdue a shot at Wilder even without the belt on the line, he’s overdue a bout with Povetkin. To be talking about him fighting a UFC star when he still hasn’t been given his just deserts in his own sport is honestly quite insulting.
It was fine for Mayweather to fight McGregor, he’s already had it all in boxing. At this point Mayweather can just collect paychecks doing whatever he wants, it’s his right and his luxury. But Whyte has been open about wanting to be taken seriously, to which Hearn is responding he can have Francis Ngannou in 2020 if he wants.
Obviously, Dillian Whyte has his shot against Tyson Fury in February 2021. He also has his fight with Povetkin on July 4th. So, it seems an even odder time for Hearn to be entertaining the idea of a crossover fight, with one of his biggest assets in line for a boxing world title. This is a risk Hearn would never take with Anthony Joshua, nor would Frank Warren take with Tyson Fury, Joe Joyce, or Daniel Dubois. While we see Whyte convincingly handling Ngannou as a boxer, he’s still a professional fighter who weighs a lean 253lbs, it’s just risky with no upside.
Of the fight, Hearn said “This fight does HUGE numbers, HUGE numbers… I never really thought we would take this too seriously, but in the last week we have to take this seriously”. Dillian Whyte is never going to say no to a fight, it’s just not in a fighter’s nature, it’s up to his promoter to be making smart decisions for his fighter’s career. Instead, it sort of feels like Hearn has his golden boy in Joshua, and is willing to use Whyte to earn some money doing whatever comes along. Had Ngannou asked for a shot at Joshua, Hearn would’ve laughed it off quicker than Ngannou finished Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 249 (20 seconds).
Sure they fight will be interesting, it’s just not the fight we think Whyte should be taking at this point in his career.
Let us know where you stand on it in the comments, we’d like to hear what you have to say.