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Tyson Fury vs Francis NGannnou and the Bizzare World of Boxing Exhibitions

It has officially been confirmed, to the dismay of the majority of the boxing public, that the reigning WBC and Lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury will take on former UFC heavyweight champion Francis NGannou under boxing rules on October 28th in Saudi Arabia.

It is likely that this bizzare crossover affair will be an exhibition, rather than an officially sanctioned fight that will go on the professional record of each man.

Although it is hard to begrudge either man the financial rewards this sideshow will gain them following the lengthy careers of each, many fans consider these types of occasions just an embarrassing stunt that they vow never to watch [although, more often than not, they can’t resist].

In this article, we will take a look back at times when professional boxers took their chance to make bank in the most bizarre of circumstances throughout, or after their careers had come to a close.

Muhammad Ali vs Antonio Inoki, June 26th 1976, Tokyo, Japan

If you have, somehow, never got a chance to look at this ‘fight’ between one of the greatest boxers, and one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, then I would highly recommend you stop whatever you are doing, grab your popcorn, and bask in the weirdness.

What was originally, apparently, meant to be a bout contested under ‘mixed rules’ at the Nippon Budokan Arena, there was apparently great confusion between both camps as to what was permitted, and what wasn’t.

As soon as the contest began, the legendary Japanese wrestler Inoki would pull guard on Ali [a jiu-jitsu term for when one competitor lies flat on their back with their legs in a guarded manner, waiting for an opponent to fall on top of them], and began kicking fiercely at the legs of the immensely confused Ali.

It was a pattern that would continue for the entirety of the fifteen round fight, and upon it’s conclusion, the official decision was read as a draw.

Ali suffered tremendous damage to his legs as a result of Inoki’s martial arts onslaught, and ultimately suffered an infection.

The event was widely considered one of the most embarrassing moments in the career of Ali, but he took home a reported $6 million at least for the farce.

George Foreman vs Five men, April 25th 1975, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada

With his confidence dented from the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ defeat to Muhammad Ali the year before, Foreman was hell-bent on restoring his reputation as the big punching, invincible brute that existed before he ran into ‘The Greatest’.

The way Big George went about proving this, however, would go down in boxing folklore as one of the most pathetic nights in boxing history.

The poor, overmatched lambs led to slaughter against Foreman that night were all thirty to forty pounds lighter than the former world heavyweight champion, proving very little in terms of how much of a feared destroyer he still was.

The crowd that night at the Maple Leaf Gardens soon realised what a joke they had paid money to witness, and began raining down boos, and glass bottles on the ring that held a sadly desperate Foreman.

To add insult the injury, the man who had inadvertently caused this freakshow to be taking place, Muhammad Ali, sat at ringside with the legendary commentator Howard Cosell and hurled insults at his former foe.

George thankfully restored his reputation in boxing during his famous second comeback, becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in history when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994 to win the IBF crown at 45 years old.

Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr, November 29th 2020, Staples Centre, Los Angeles, California

What was once considered a potential superfight around the turn of the 21st century, it is unfortunate that it took this scenario, many years after the conclusion of both mens professional and physical primes, to finally see who would come out on top in a boxing ring.

Tyson, to his credit, looked in outstanding physical condition for a 53 year old man who hadn’t had a professional fight for the previous fifteen years.

The pre-announced 'no-knockout' clause was a sad premonition of what was to come, as both men, well past the stage of being anywhere near a real fight, slowly meandered their way to a draw, and a tremendous paycheque each.

Honorable mentions:

  • Recent exhibition specialist and the aptly nicknamed Floyd 'Money' Mayweather reducing a grossly undersized Tenshin Nasukawa to tears on New Years Eve in Japan or battering the charismatic vlogger Logan Paul in Miami.

  • Andre the Giant vs Chuck Wepner in New York as the appetiser to Ali vs Inoki

  • Basketball colossus Shaquille O'Neal vs Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley as chapters of his reality television show 'Shaq vs…'

So that sums up our look at boxings craziest exhibition bouts, and both Fury, and MMA star NGannou are sure to add another entry to the list in October in the Middle East.


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