Wardley vs Adeleye may Steal the Show on the Fury-Ngannou Curio in Riyadh


By Arne K. Lang

By Arne K. Lang

The noted boxing scribe and award-winning author Donald McRae is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to cover Saturday’s match between lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and former MMA star Francis Ngannou. In his pre-fight story for Yahoo, McRae uses such words as charade, ridiculous, circus, and glorified – as in glorified exhibition – to describe the contest. He accords Ngannou no chance of winning, an opinion somewhat concordant with the odds. When we last checked, the Gypsy King was a consensus 16/1 favorite.

The undercard is an all-heavyweight affair. Most of these bouts are mismatches too, at least on paper, with one glaring exception. The chief supporting bout, a match between Fabio Wardley (16-0, 15 KOs) and David Adeleye (12-0, 11 KOs) shapes up as a competitive and crowd-pleasing tussle.

Slated for 12 rounds but unlikely to last that long, this is a rare battle between undefeated up-and-comers at roughly the same stage of development. Physically, there’s little to choose between them. Wardley, 28, stands six-foot-five and is expected to enter the ring carrying about 245 pounds. Adeleye, who turns 27 next month, is a half-inch shorter and perhaps 10 pounds lighter.

Hailing from the historic English port city of Ipswich, Wardley (pictured on the left) has fought tougher opposition. His signature win was a third-round stoppage of Tyson Fury’s cousin, Nathan Gorman. He followed that up with a fourth-round stoppage of Michael Polite Coffie, his fifteenth consecutive triumph inside the distance after opening his career with a decision in a 4-round fight. He’s still considered a work in progress, however, consistent with the fact that he had virtually no amateur experience. He ran into some adversity before chopping Gorman down. His defense needs tightening.

David Adeleye, a Londoner born to Nigerian immigrants, juggled his amateur career with his studies at the University of Wolverhampton where he earned a degree in business administration. In the last few years, he has been one of Tyson Fury’s regular sparring partners. He hasn’t yet been asked to fight more than eight rounds, so stamina may become an issue if this bout degrades into a fight of attrition. He’s the challenger here with Wardley making the first defense of his Lonsdale belt.

In other prelims, Canadian slugger Simon Kean (23-1, 22 KOs) steps up in class against former WBO world title-holder Joseph Parker (32-3, 22 KOs), Montreal-based Arslanbek Makhmudov (17-0, 16 KOs) showcases his talent against 37-year-old Illinois journeyman Junior Anthony Wright (20-4-1, 17 KOs), and 18-year-old British prodigy Moses Itauma, trained by Shane McGuigan, opposes Hungarian no-hoper Istvan Bernath in a 6-rounder.

As for the main event, Donald McRae acknowledges that Fury vs. Ngannou is the biggest crossover fight since Floyd Mayweather fought Conor McGregor in 2017. From a financial aspect, that fight was a lollapalooza, so, it was probably inevitable that Tyson Fury would someday go the Mayweather route, thumbing his nose at boxing purists as he laughs all the way to the bank.

Fury vs Ngannou is scheduled for 10 rounds under conventional boxing rules. If Fury emerges unscathed, he is expected to return to Saudi Arabia in nine weeks for a full, four-belt unification fight with Oleksandr Usyk.

An ESPN+ PPV, Saturday’s Fury-Ngannou curio plus the all-heavyweight undercard will commence at 2 pm ET/11 am PT. The list price for U.S. viewers is $79.99.