There’s one seriously over-the-top Sportstainment™ event taking place this Saturday night when the lineal and WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury meets the former UFC heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou, in a feature attraction to kick off Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Season of art, music, theatre, food, and sporting events.
There’s been a lot of purist gnashing about this main event crossover dust-up, and that’s fair enough, but you’re better off cooling your boots and seeing it as a bit of fun between two big old lumps who have probably earned the right to shower in dollars for the night after decades of sacrifice.
Tyson Fury will win, obviously, and that matters little. There is, of course, the Rizla paper chance that Ngannou hangs his record-breaking swiftly on Tyson’s whiskers and shakes things up, but it’s as unlikely as a handy dude in the boozer, full of Stella Artois troubling the big man by windmilling punches out in the car park.
So, much as this over-the-top Main Event hoo-hah is going to be irrelevant fun a la Muhammed Ali’s War of the Worlds with Antonio Inoki, the undercard is seriously intriguing and probably worth the entrance fee alone, so let’s take a look.
Jack McGann v Alcibiade Duran Galvan
The show opens with Liverpool’s Jack McGann taking on the son of the legendary Roberto Duran, who will be amongst the great and the good watching on at ringside. Alcibiade obviously had to fight, but over five years as a pro has amassed a moderate 12 and 3 tally against a handful of no-bodies, really, although does seem to have a bit of punching pop. McGann is unbeaten in 9, and you’d expect him to round that up to 10 by unanimous and add a tale for the future grandkids to his resume.
Martin Bakole v Carlos Takam
You know what you get with Carlos Takam. A tough as f@ck top-tier gatekeeper who hits, gets hit, and keeps on hitting through that clenched gumshield until he wins or gets laid out. Martin Bakole is on the up. Always touted, his freight train was derailed in a KO loss to Michael Hunter back in 2018, but he has since regrouped and gone unbeaten in 8 with Tony Yoka, the premier scalp last year in Paris. You’d expect Bakole to grind the veteran down and stop him in the middle rounds.
Moses Itauma v Istvan Bernath
There is a lot of buzz around Moses Itauma in the UK and increasingly beyond, with many touting the 18-year-old as one of the future stars of the heavyweight division. This is amidst a narrative of his taking Mike Tyson’s record of becoming the youngest-ever heavyweight champion. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t – we will see, but for now, if opponent Istvan makes it past the first couple of rounds on Saturday night, that will be a surprise.
Arslanbek Makhmudov v Junior Anthony Wright
Arslanbek Makhmudov looks like one bad mofo and, with 17 wins in 17, fights like one, too, with only the previously mentioned Carlos Takam lasting the distance with the Russian powerhouse and genuine rising star. Wright has decent pedigree, having won the Chicago Golden Gloves three times as an amateur and started well as a cruiserweight pro before losing a couple and then filling out to heavyweight, where he has competed a bit. Makhmudov will prove too big and too good in this one and likely stop Wright in the first half.
Joseph Parker v Simon Kean
We all know Joseph Parker. A good, solid former heavyweight champion who has been in with a who’s who and either beaten or tested all of them, win, lose, or draw. Recent outings suggest that he may have peaked, and it’s hard to see where he sits in the heavyweight landscape now other than that of an active fighter earning a living. And with that in mind, you’d expect him to know too much for Canada’s Simon Kean, who, although a knockout king on paper with 22 in 23 wins, hasn’t mixed in company anywhere near Mr Parker. Should be damn good fun this one, though, and if Joseph has some left, he should take it.
Fabio Wardley v David Adeleye
This is a cracker. Two young unbeaten British heavyweights with needle-moving knockout numbers meeting in their primes for the British heavyweight title. Hot sauce doused the red carpet event to launch this whole shebang of a night when there was a little dust-up between Wardley and Team Adeleye, leaving the former down and leaking a bit of claret. This is a proper 50/50 – Adeleye exudes a street confidence, and Wardley a laid-back knowing. It’s a call ‘em, and I call Wardley by KO, given his mixing it up with better opposition and sorting them all out.
Follow G.E. Simons on X @GESimonsBoxing.