On Saturday night, WBC and lineal heavyweight champ Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) survived quite the scare, coming off the canvas to edge out former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou (0-1) at Kingdom Arena, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Fury, while having some success during the first two rounds, seemed a bit off. Ngannou was a bit awkward, which is saying something, considering one of the key aspects of Fury’s game, is how awkward he can be for his opponents – Ngannou’s powerful frame also made it challenging for Fury to push him around as he has other heavyweights.
Then in the third round, a clubbing left hook from Ngannou, shocked both Fury and the boxing world, when the heavyweight champ found himself on his back.
Fury managed to get to his feet but was clearly stunned, perhaps more emotionally, by what just occurred.
Regaining his composure, Fury boxed well over the next few rounds, but Ngannou still found a home for the straight right hand, while staying aggressive and keeping things close.
In the end, the judges thought Fury did just enough to recover from the early knockdown and tight final rounds, giving him the split decision nod with scores of 96-93, 95-94, and 94-95.
“That definitely wasn’t in the script. He’s one hell of a fighter. He’s strong, a big puncher, and a lot better as a boxer than we thought he would ever be. He’s a very awkward man, and he’s a good puncher. I respect him a lot, before the fight and afterward,” said Fury after the fight.
“He was very awkward. He wasn’t coming forward. He was standing back and waiting for me to land my punches and then try to counter. He’s a good fighter. He’s given me one of my toughest fights in the last 10 years.
“It’s part of boxing. I got caught behind the head again. My legs weren’t hurt or nothing. I was alright. And I got back up and it was what it was. And I got back to my boxing. I don’t know how close it was. But I got the win, and that’s what it is.”
Ngannou for his part said, “We can run it back again, and I’m sure I will get the better. This was my first boxing match. It was a great experience. I’m not giving any excuse. I know I came up short. But I’m going to go back and work harder with a little more experience and a little more feeling of the game. And I will come back even stronger.
“At first, I was a little nervous. This is a new sport that I never did. Now I know I can do this sh*t. So, get ready!”