Cameroon refugee Arsene Fosso has revealed how training alongside UFC megastar Francis Ngannou is now inspiring his own dream of becoming Australia’s most unlikely heavyweight champion.
Despite having disappeared from the Aussie fight scene for the past 18 months, Fosso is not only now returning for Thursday’s Origin Rumble fight night, but being tipped by no less than Paul Gallen to emerge as the surprise undercard star.
Dubbed ‘The Hammer’, and weighing in at 116kg, the now Canberra-based heavyweight will square off against Queenslander Joe Goodall who, like him, has only one defeat on his record – with both men having lost to rising Aussie star Justis Huni.
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A win over Goddall however would give the African refugee a chance to build on his already incredible story which includes, at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, being among five countrymen who fled the athlete’s village on the Gold Coast after refusing to expose gay athletes within their squad.
Despite having family back home in Cameroon, Fosso sought asylum in Australia rather than give up team-mates who, he insists, would have subsequently been jailed “and tortured”.
The fighter also revealed this week how, aged 20, he also trained and sparred with now UFC heavyweight champion, Ngannou.
Raised in Batie, Cameroon by a single mother, Ngannou walked six miles to school, was working in a sand quarry by nine and eventually left the country aged 26 – on a journey that would take over a year, see him jailed in Spain, and live homeless in France – to chase his fight dream.
But before all that, he regularly fought Fosso.
So as for how this Queanbeyan pub doorman went against a fella now dubbed Baddest Man on the Planet?
“Ah, in Cameroon, Francis wasn’t like he is now,” Fosso tells Fox Sports Australia, grinning.
“And I still have a picture of us together.
“We trained, sparred … but, no, Francis doesn’t fight in Cameroon like now.”
After a pause, the heavyweight continued: “And now I have my dream. A dream that I’m chasing.
“Maybe one day I can become world champion, too.”
Elsewhere, Fosso said he was excited to be part of the Gallen fight night – “it’s been exciting, going on live TV” – and said, four years after his Commonwealth Games stand, he remained extremely proud.
“I am proud but it’s been hard,” he says of a decision that still sees him estranged from family and unable to get a visa to even take fights overseas.
“But I decided to take a stand because I am human, you are human, so why are we seeing people getting sacrificed?
“We are people being treated in a different way?
“All of us have different lives. And life is about choice.
“So while it has been a hard decision, I also know it has been the right decision.”
Despite not fighting since April last year “for a few reasons” — including the visa issue — Fosso is now well settled in Canberra, working the door of a pub and continuing to work on his craft, which has included sparring sessions against Gallen.
Asked about Fosso, who rocked up to Thursday’s weigh-ins wearing a NSW Blues wig, Gallen said: “Big, strong dude and a very good boxer.
“I’ve sparred him, sparred Goodell too and they both punch hard.
“But I’ll be backing Fosso. He’s a staunch Blue.
“I just hope he’s been working on his fitness. Because if he can go the distance I really believe he can upset Joe.”