Tyson Fury had to pull himself together after being knocked down by Francis Ngannou in round three
WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has won a controversial split decision victory over former UFC fighter Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia.
Ngannou, 37, took Fury to the canvas in round three after connecting him with a left hook.
But while one judge scored 95-94 in favor of Ngannou, two judges gave Fury 96-93 and 95-94.
Fury’s WBC heavyweight belt was not at stake.
“That was definitely not in the script,” Fury told TNT Sports.
“I was caught in the back of the head [for the knockdown]. I wasn’t hurt. I got up and went back to my boxing.
“He’s a clumsy man and a good puncher and I respect him a lot. He gave me one of my toughest fights in the last 10 years.”
Ngannou, making his professional boxing debut, came out hesitant behind the jab in the opening round and Fury appeared content with a slow start as he tried to read his opponent.
However, Fury got his first taste of Ngannou’s power in round two when a cut appeared on the Gypsy King’s forehead as he ate a left hook.
Looking ill-prepared and sluggish, Fury hit the canvas in round three when he was found behind the right ear with the same punch.
Perhaps he was still feeling the impact of that shot and was struggling to find his rhythm until he caught Ngannou with a slick double combination in the fifth round.
After a brief setback from Fury as he began boxing at distance and finding success with his jab, Ngannou began to land some heavy punches again in the final rounds.
Francis Ngannou took part in his first professional boxing match
It appeared the scorecards were going against Fury and he looked desperate when he lunged forward in the seventh round, missing Ngannou and falling to his knees – in what was seen as a slip rather than a knockdown.
Ngannou boxed very skillfully as he managed to close the distance, using his MMA skills to connect and land shots to the body and head.
Fury’s face bore the damage as the final bell rang, and Ngannou’s corner held his arms up in anticipation of the fact that he was about to deliver the biggest shock in boxing.
But the scorecards controversially tipped in favor of the veteran boxer, who won the commemorative Riyadh Champion belt and extended his unbeaten record to 35 – 34 wins and one draw.
“My training camp only lasted three and a half months and I came there with an injury,” Ngannou said. “But I don’t want to give excuses. I’ll see what I can do next to improve my game to come back even better.”
“Now I know I can do this, get ready. The wolf is in the house.”
Fury’s victory means a blockbuster fight with fellow signed heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who holds the WBA, WBO and IBF titles, remains on the horizon.
An undisputed heavyweight contest is scheduled for December 23, the first in the four-belt era, but a battered and battered Fury might not be able to turn things around so quickly.
Two arenas and a lot of ceremony
Flowdan and Lil Baby performed together
The fight in Riyadh was held in a separate ring and arena adjacent to the rest of the undercard.
The undercard took place in a small outdoor arena and ended with a British heavyweight title fight in which Fabio Wardley defended his belt against David Adeleye.
After a lengthy break, the crowd and media moved into the 26,000-capacity Boulevard Hall stadium for a musical offering that felt like a cross between the Super Bowl halftime show and the Eurovision Song Contest.
It lasted about 30 minutes, with London rapper Flowdan, Grammy winner Lil Baby and American singer Becky G performing.
As the musical performances came to an end, the hall opened and the ring rose from the floor to a loud roar from the 20,000-seat arena.
Finally, both fighters, wearing crowns, made their way to the ring, but only after each sitting on a golden throne.
Saudi Arabia’s star-studded show
Conor McGregor has held UFC featherweight and lightweight titles. Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Saudi Pro League team Al-Nassr in December 2022
There was no shortage of glamor in Riyadh this week as numerous celebrities gathered for the event.
Where else would you see former UFC two-weight champion Conor McGregor between former Liverpool striker Sadio Mane, who now plays for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League, and former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand see?
Many famous faces from the world of combat sports were in attendance, including Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton, Frank Bruno, Oscar de la Hoya and Prince Nazeem Hamed among those who flew boxing’s flag, while former mixed martial artist Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir were at ringside.
The spectators included great soccer players past and present, including five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who stormed into the event just hours after Al-Nassr won 3-1 at Al-Feiha with former Brazilian international Ronaldo and ex-Real Madrid striker Figo.
The producer and fashion designer Kanye West and his fellow rapper Eminem also traveled to Riyadh.
The event was part of the “Riyadh Season” – a festival of entertainment events that has been held in the capital of Saudi Arabia every year since 2019.
The Saudi Arabian government reportedly paid big money to host the crossover fight, but the country’s increased involvement in global sports has proven controversial.
Saudi Arabia’s increasing desire to host top sporting events – including boxing matches, an annual Formula One race and a bid for the 2034 World Cup – has drawn scrutiny due to the country’s poor human rights record.
Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, said in September that he “doesn’t care” about accusations that the country is engaging in “sports laundering” – it is investing in sports and using high-profile events to quell criticism of its practices and enhance its international reputation improve.
Source : www.bbc.co.uk