How Did Mike Tyson and Francis Ngannou Develop a Mentor-Mentee Relationship?

Published 10/25/2023, 2:57 PM EDT

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The countdown has begun. One of the biggest and most expensive fights of this year will take its course this weekend in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. MMA fame Francis Ngannou will fight against the WBC heavyweight title holder, Tyson Fury, on the 28th of October. The former’s maiden fight in the boxing format has sent ripples through the combat realm ever since its inception.

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With over a 10-year reign in the Octagon, the fighter takes his career toward boxing after his relationship with UFC President, Dana White, deteriorated. The MMA promoter company did not reportedly agree to the requirements put forth by the fighter in their negotiations. Now, with all plans to make big in the ring, he fights against one of the best of this era. However, he does so with the abled and much-experienced support of Mike Tyson.

What led Mike Tyson to join hands with Francis Ngannou

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It is a well-known story that Tyson Fury was named by his father after one of the best boxers of the preceding era, Mike Tyson. However, when it comes to the upcoming fight against Ngannou, ‘Iron Mike’ picks the corner of the latter. This choice is not one that was made on a whim or to match the calls of some nature. Rather, this association was made well in advance, even before the Cameroonian fighter even fathomed of boxing.

Leading to fight night, most remain curious about how Ngannou got the Hall-of-Famer to coach him. In response is a story that began in 2019. Outlining how this association solidified today, the fighter said that he built a rapport with ‘Iron Mike’ in those days, and had asked Iron to train him when he does land a fight against Fury. The legendary boxer nodded in the affirmative.

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Ngannou explains, “The relationship with Mike Tyson has been around for four years now. Since the first time that I met him four years ago, I think it was July 2019, and from that very first time, I made the request for him to be in my corner if I ever and whenever I fight Tyson Fury and he accepted.” Despite having met on multiple occasions and even appearing on Mike’s podcast, they seldom discussed such a partnership. But when the fight was declared, one call was all it took.

We get in the couple occasions. We have to meet and talk but never about this fight until he became real four months ago, and I made a call,” added Francis Ngannou. However, if looked closely, there is a clear distinction between the role Mike plays in Ngannou’s training camp and that of an actual trainer.

Not a trainer, but a coach

The world can’t keep calm about Mike Tyson’s association with Ngannou, a bonus point in his crusade against Fury. However, there are some clarifications the former heavyweight champion made about his role in Ngannou’s training camp. He insisted that he is not actually training Ngannou in the intricacies and technicalities of the sport but rather is by him in the capacity of a mentor.

In a conversation with GQ, he said, “I’m not a trainer. I’m a coach. A trainer can be bought by anybody. ‘Train this guy. Hey, train this guy,’. I’m a coach. I’m loyal to my guy. When he gets beat up, I feel the punches.” Sources around Tyson have corroborated this revelation. They said, “He’s been a mentor to Francis throughout the training process, popping in and out of training sessions as time permits for several weeks.”

Tyson also stated that he is standing by his mentee at every step of the way. He’s learning what Ngannou’s strengths are and how they can be further leveraged for his debut fight in the ring. Showing his ample confidence in the fighter’s ability, Mike Tyson added, “He has what it takes to knock out anything or anybody standing in his way. Once he lands a punch on Tyson Fury’s jaw he is going to knock him out too. Nobody can survive that.’ He’s making some money for his family.”

If Mike Tyson is not actually training the Cameroonian fighter, then who is?

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In the conversation with journalist Ariel Helwani, ‘The Predator’ Ngannou also revealed that along with Tyson, by ringside on fight night will also be a revered MMA coach. Eric Nicksick is a head coach of Xtreme Couture, a well-known training facility for world-known fighters. Talking about the association with the trainer, Ngannou said, “Yeah, I have Dewey Cooper, I have Eric Nicksick [and] I have John Bomba, from France.” Nicksick has trained the likes of Aljamain Sterling and Sean Strickland, who will join Ngannou ringside come fight day.

It is evident that Francis Ngannou has gotten the base covered in his training. But with this ample support, also comes bigger expectations from him. Will he be able to match up the magnitude of this partnership with a befitting victory against Tyson Fury? Follow this space as we closely cover one of the biggest nights for boxing this year.

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Do you think the night will be in Francis Ngannou’s favor? Let us know in the comments section below.

Watch This Story: 57-Year-Old Mike Tyson Called Out to Fight on Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou Undercard

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Written by:

Mohammed Shafiulla

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Mohammed Shafiulla is a Boxing Writer at EssentiallySports. With a background as a freelance journalist, he has covered a wide array of subjects before finding his niche at ES. Armed with a double major in journalism and literature, he brings a unique and insightful perspective to the sport of Boxing, highlighting its rich history and enduring appeal.
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Edited by:

Gokul Pillai

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