Tuesday, December 05, 2023  |



Tyson Fury survives knockdown, narrowly outpoints Francis Ngannou via split decision

Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou go at it. Photo: @TRboxing
Fighters Network

Most hardcore fans passed on buying the Tyson Fury-Francis Ngannou pay-per-view event that was broadcast from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday, viewing it as a gross mismatch between the man many consider the best heavyweight in the world and a brute strong mixed martial artist making his boxing pro debut.

However, after the trouble that Ngannou gave Fury during 10 slow and awkward but surprisingly close rounds, they might want to give the MMA star another chance if he decides to continue boxing.

The 37-year-old Cameroonian who made his name as one of the hardest hitters of MMA acquitted himself well against Fury, The Ring’s No. 1-rated heavyweight, scoring a third-round knockdown and roughing up the unbeaten WBC titleholder in Round 8 before dropping a close split decision.

Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) won bout by scores of 96-93 and 95-94. The third judge scored the bout for Ngannou (0-1) by a 95-94 tally.

It wasn’t as bad as Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki, but it wasn’t terribly entertaining apart from the third-round knockdown (scored with a counter left hook as Fury was loading up with a one-two combination) and Ngannou’s eighth-round rally.

Neither giant (both weighed north of 270 pounds) was willing to make it a clash of titans. Ngannou held back as he was clearly (and understandably) pacing himself throughout his first pro boxing match. Fury refrained from letting his hands go because he was leery (understandably so) of getting clipped in an exchange. So, those who tuned in were “treated” to a low-volume chess match… maybe call it a game of checkers.

Fury kept to the basics — jabs, feints, one-two combos, more feints and lots of holding when in close — while Ngannou was looking to counter as he carefully stalked the slightly taller and rangier boxer. Both big men boxed well from the southpaw stance in spots throughout the bout. Ngannou exhibited a decent jab, was surprisingly steady as he closed in on Fury, and was able to land single body shots from mid-range. His reflexes from a distance weren’t great, but his punches came quicker when he was in close, and he often threw Fury off balance whenever the huge odds favorite tried to rough him up on the inside.

By the late rounds, Fury appeared tired. After the bout he had the look of a man who had been in a real fight.

“He’s a lot better than we thought he’d be,” Fury admitted during one of his post-fight interviews. “He was strong and very awkward. He’s given me one of my toughest fights in the last 10 years.”

Ngannou was disappointed but gracious, and also proud of his effort.

“This was my first boxing match,” he said. “It was good experience. I’m going to go back and work harder and come back better. Now, I know I can do this s__t.”

He’s got potential. Even at his age. Will he take the time to develop his skills against mid-level opposition or cash in as a lucrative opponent for other elite heavyweights, such as Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Zhilei Zhang.

Ngannou might get a second shot at Fury, but he’ll have to wait until the WBC beltholder takes on the unified Ring Magazine champ Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed crown. Usyk was ringside for the bout, and he joined Fury in the ring for the staredown after the post-fight interviews. It has been reported that their anticipated fight could take place on December 23, however Fury and his promoter Frank Warren were non-committal when it came to verifying that date.

But Fury repeated that Usyk was “the next man, the next fight, guaranteed.”