Featured image: via Queensberry Promotions on X.
Tyson Fury had to pick himself off the canvas in the third before eventually ousting MMA star Francis Ngannou via split-decision in Saudi Arabia.
The Briton was floored in the third and was hurt again in the eighth but used his experience to win a tight points victory over the boxing debutant to kick off the Riyadh Season.
Many felt Ngannou deserved the nod on the night after making a mockery of the pre-fight odds to hand Fury one of the toughest nights of his 35-bout professional career.
“That definitely wasn’t in the script,” Fury laughed post-fight.
“Francis is a hell of a fighter…strong, a big puncher and a lot better boxer than we all thought he’d be.
“He was very awkward. He wasn’t coming forward, he was just standing back and waiting for me to land my punches and trying to counter me. He’s a good fighter.”
Ngannou meanwhile couldn’t hide his disappointment with the decision but appeared buoyed by his performance on the night.
“I’m feeling great, I’m feeling fantastic,” he told TNT Sports.
“I might have come up short today but I’m not a beaten man. I can fight and I’m ready to fight anytime soon.”Embed from Getty Images
Above: Fury sported multiple marks across his face after going ten rounds with Ngannou in the Middle East. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Ngannou stuns Fury in the third
Ngannou raised eyebrows as he made a fast start to the bout appearing undeterred by the size and stature of the heavyweight champion standing before him as he looked to counter a prodding Fury jab.
The latter looked to have rocked the French-Cameroonian with a straight right in the final stages of the first but Ngannou continued to push Fury back to the ropes.
The challenger’s momentum grew tenfold in the third however when he handed the Morecambe man his seventh career knockdown with a looping left hook.
Fury appeared as stunned as everyone watching but re-climbed to his feet to see out the round.
The Brit was lethargic all night however and, despite his significant advantage in experience, looked to be feeling the pace as the second half of the fight beckoned.
Ngannou looked rejuvenated as he continued to pursue one of the greatest upsets in sport and again hurt Fury in the eighth as concerns continued to grow in the WBC champion’s corner.Embed from Getty Images
Above: Fury remarkably found himself on the canvas in the third round. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Fury rebounded in the ninth as he boxed behind the jab but the sounding of the final bell made for an anxious wait in the home corner.
The scorecards predictably confirmed Fury’s unbeaten record had been maintained but it was Ngannou who no doubt emerges as the moral victor after putting in one of the best debut performances in recent times.
More big nights lie in wait for the latter who has already called for a second run with Fury in the future.
Usyk watches on ahead of potential undisputed showdown
Unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk was one of many watching on in disbelief at ringside as he continues to seek a fight with WBC champion Fury.
December 23rd was the mooted target for boxing’s first undisputed heavyweight fight in over two decades but the date is now shrouded in doubt following the events in the Middle East on Saturday.
“It’s been going on along time. We were supposed to fight in April at Wembley [but] it never happened. Let’s do the fight over here. Let’s do the fight over here,” Fury told TNT Sports.
“I’m going to be fighting him, amazing,” was the simple remark from Usyk as he continues to chase his dream of becoming the undisputed heayweight king.Embed from Getty Images
Above: Fury and Usyk came face-to-face following the former’s narrow victory in Riyadh. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.