What Is Tyson Fury's Legacy After Ngannou Took Him To The Brink Of Defeat?

Ngannou proved Fury is not one of the greatest heavyweights of all time... yet
10:51, 21 Feb 2024

Tyson Fury’s surprisingly-competitive split decision over Francis Ngannou last October has had a wide impact. It has served notice to the rest of the heavyweight division that former UFC champion Ngannou can compete with the very best. It proved that not all crossover fights are created equal, serving as a satisfying antidote to the sterile Tommy Fury vs KSI bout from earlier that same month. It also temporarily jeopardised WBC champion Tyson Fury’s bid to face Oleksandr Usyk, the WBA, WBO and IBF king, in an undisputed title fight last December. That fight was moved to February to allow Tyson to recover from the Ngannou fight, before being shifted again after 'The Gypsy King' suffered an injury.

But there has been a more lasting shift caused by Fury’s shocking struggles against Ngannou. The biggest long-term impact of that bout may be to Fury’s legacy. In the course of ten rounds of boxing, ‘The Gypsy King’ has tumbled from the lofty pedestal many fans had put him on.


The Sportsman has periodically dabbled in historical bookkeeping when it comes to boxing. Trying to file the great and the good of the sport into a cohesive catalogue. Two such lists we have produced had Fury under consideration. Our ranking of the ten greatest heavyweights of all-time and our top ten British heavyweights of the modern era

On our all-time list, we acknowledged that Fury had not yet done enough to feature. Mike Tyson ranking in tenth showed the high bar needed to gain access to the ranking. But ‘The Gypsy King’ did make our British list, coming in second place behind Lennox Lewis. As with any subjective ranking such as this, social media was vo

Fury was left off the all-time list because his level of competition hasn’t been as high as that of the people included. Fury’s best wins came in two of his three Deontay Wilder bouts and in his 2015 coming-out party against Wladimir Klitschko. Fights with the likes of Otto Wallin, Derek Chisora and Dillian Whyte provided memorable nights but not elite-level competition. The likes of Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk missing from his resume, or even solid contenders like Andy Ruiz Jr and Zhilei Zhang, harms Fury too.

But still you argued passionately for him in your numbers. Even the British list, where he came a credible second behind Lewis, caused some aggro. But Lewis was the last undisputed champion the division had. He beat Vitali Klitschko, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, albeit the latter had faded. He also took out the best of the rest, fighters like Shannon Briggs, Ray Mercer and Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock. Fury has had a great career, but Lewis exists on a plain of his own when it comes to British big men.

It is fair to say a lot of people got very carried away about Fury. Some were comparing him to Muhammad Ali and calling him one of the greatest heavyweights ever. In the wake of his stunning third fight with Wilder, many were saying that he was simply the greatest ever. At 6’9, with boxing acumen to spare and fair power, he was talked up as an unbeatable force who would have squashed history’s best heavyweights. Ngannou has now proven that was a pipe dream.

One bad night does not ruin a career, of course. Fury is still the defining modern heavyweight. If he beats Usyk, he will be right back in the all-time debate. But as it stands, Tyson Fury is not one of the greatest heavyweights ever. He is not the best British heavyweight of all-time. His legacy falls short of that. The worry now is how far it could drop.


It seems strange to pull back the reins on a fighter’s claim to greatness after a victory. But even if you do think Fury warranted his decision win over Ngannou, it is hard to argue he excelled. Everyone knew ‘The Predator’ would bring power but few expected any technical skills from him. However, the Cameroon-born warrior won the boxing battle at distance at times throughout the fight. The third-round knockdown wasn’t a lucky shot but the result of a challenging performance from Ngannou. He asked Fury questions that the Mancunian laboured to answer.

It is hard to believe Lewis, Mike Tyson or even Oleksandr Usyk struggling in the same way with Ngannou. You sense each man would have worked out the non-boxer in front of them far sooner. Ngannou would have given anyone a tough night in that kind of form, but he wouldn’t have got as close to victory against the greatest heavyweights.

We asked after the Ngannou fight whether Fury’s apparent decline hints at a possible retirement. That remains to be seen. But we can assess Fury’s legacy as it stands, while we continue the long wait for an Usyk fight. Even before Ngannou, Fury’s record looked just a little short of all-time greatness. After getting sent to the canvas and comprehensively rattled by a man making their pro boxing debut, you could argue Tyson Fury is even further away from his ‘GOAT’ ambitions than he was before. The road back is as simple as a convincing win over Usyk for the undisputed championship. Easy, right?

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