Is Tyson Fury on the decline? Don’t be fooled by Francis Ngannou performance

Seven months on from the biggest scare of his boxing career, Tyson Fury is back to show what unfolded against Francis Ngannou was a momentary lapse, rather than a sign his formidable powers are finally on the wane.

Fury walked away the winner after his wild night against the former UFC heavyweight champion last October, his undefeated record still intact and Saturday’s undisputed showdown against Oleksandr Usyk still on the horizon.

But in an unforgettable third round, his world was shaken when he was sent crashing to the mat by the Cameroonian in one of the sport’s truly extraordinary moments.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time Fury had been sent to the canvas. The Briton rose from the dead in the 12th round of his first showdown with Deontay Wilder in 2018 and was floored twice in their ferocious trilogy fight three years later only to have his hand raised on both occasions.

But clearly not in fighting shape, questions were asked of the WBC champion last year. Tyson’s father John Fury, centre stage this week after headbutting a member of team Usyk on a Monday afternoon, repeatedly raised concerns over how his son had prepared for that fight, fearing a decline had begun to show.

‘For my money, his last three fights, I have seen a bit of decline. Not a decline in ability but a decline in strength, power and physical condition,’ Fury told Metro.co.uk last November. ‘I don’t know what they are doing up there, you have to address it. He didn’t look himself out in Saudi.’

Fury, an overwhelming favourite heading into last year’s fight, was reluctant to admit he took Ngannou lightly but the signs were clear and obvious, as is the change in the champion since then.

Tyson Fury knocked down against Francis Ngannou

The Fury we have seen leading into Saturday’s historic undisputed fight is a man physically transformed, looking perhaps the leanest and lightest he has been since his return to boxing in 2018 as he prepares to battle the fleet-footed Ukrainian.

While it also may have its tactical benefits against a smaller, more elusive fighter in Usyk to try to match his speed and mobility, Fury’s change will also represent the extreme demands he has put upon himself and the renewed focus he has instilled since last October’s scare.

‘Tyson will privately admit this himself, he was very poor against Ngannou,’ former super-bantamweight and featherweight world champion Carl Frampton said. ‘People have accused of him being on the slide, being on the way out but I would hope it was just a bad performance that night.

Tyson Fury

‘He wasn’t in great shape, it looked like he hadn’t trained very hard, if at all. But when you’ve got everyone and their granny saying it’s an easy fight you probably start to believe that yourself. So I think that might have been what happened and Tyson underestimated him. I know that won’t happen against Usyk.’

Fury’s weight has been much discussed in fight week with Usyk describing the towering Briton as ‘skinny’ after seeing him for the first time in Saudi Arabia. ‘Skinny? I’m 19-odd stone,’ Fury replied.

Fury is still expected to weigh in heavier than Usyk, who hit the scales at 220.9lbs for his last fight against Daniel Dubois last August. And even a slimmed down version will boast a five-inch advantage in height, along with a seven-inch advantage in reach.

‘It would be ignorant to say it is just his [Fury’s] size that wins the fight because he is an incredible boxer,’ Frampton continued. ‘But if he combines that with being able to use that weight and strength to put on Usyk, that is the difference for me, that’s why I lean towards Fury.’

WBO, WBA and IBF champion Usyk, a former cruiserweight king to boot, has masterfully schooled his challengers since dethroning Anthony Joshua in 2021 and rightfully sits right among the top of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.

But on the grandest stage possible, Fury can unequivocally silence any concerns lingering after what happened last year.

Watch Fury v Usyk, ‘Ring of Fire’ live from Riyadh on TNT Sports Box Office on Saturday 18 May. For more info visit: tntsports.co.uk/boxoffice

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