The Tyson Fury-Francis Ngannou debacle left more questions than answers
As a sporting spectacle it literally didn’t come any bigger than Tyson Fury versus Francis Ngannou.
The two leviathans locked horns at the Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, over 10 rounds, on a Saturday evening in front of a star-studded audience that included various boxing legends, soccer players and music celebrities.
The first big moment came when Ngannou landed a discombobulating left hook above Fury’s right ear that dropped him to the seat of his pants much to the surprise of those watching. Fury didn’t appear to be badly hurt, and it was not the first time in which the big Brit gathered himself and fought on. That’s not to say it wasn’t more than a little embarrassing for Fury.
For much of the rest of the encounter Fury didn’t look dialed in and focused, which isn’t surprising given how relaxed and calm he appeared from what we all saw on social media. The 35-year-old looked like he had been at a party all week grabbing selfies with a who’s who of celebrities who descended on Riyadh and generally hamming it up at every turn.
However, let’s not take anything away from Ngannou who was significantly better than I was expecting. The Cameroon native had more than his fair share of moments in the fight and also showed a good beard taking several flush shots without moving.
Unlike fellow MMA cohort Conor McGregor, who had switched codes for a much-ballyhoed showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the summer of 2017, Ngannou wasn’t completely outclassed.
At the conclusion, many believed Ngannou (17-3 in MMA, 0-1 in boxing) had outworked Fury (34-0-1, 24 knockouts). Things were close on the scorecards but in the end Fury prevailed by 10-round split decision. Ed Garner sided with Ngannou 95-94 but that was out-voted by Alan Krebs 95-94 and Juan Carlos Pelayo 96-93.
— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) October 29, 2023
According to Compubox Fury landed 71 of 223 punches thrown. While Ngannou landed 59 from 231 punches. Unsurprisingly Fury was more accurate with his punches. Rather more surprisingly, Ngannou outlanded Fury in power punches 37-32.
Heading in to the event, I took the show piece for what it was, something of a freak show. Personally I was more interested in the undercard which put on some good heavyweight action. While the main event didn’t do much for me having several name heavyweights on the undercard gave them visibility and potentially helped sell a fight with Fury further down the road.
Going forward, the mooted undisputed heavyweight title fight with Oleksandr Usyk on December 23 must now be in question.
Futhermore, if that is the case: will that lead to any ramifications with any of the sanctioning bodies?
The IBF mandatory is Filip Hrgovic, who has already said he won’t step aside, WBO Interim titlist Zhilei Zhang wants his opportunity. The WBC and WBA haven’t clarified their situations but likely will do at upcoming conventions. However, you suspect money will out and find a way to make that fight next, most likely in the first quarter of 2024.
Fury is the type of guy who is as erratic in life as well as in the ring, so it’s too early to suggest any sign of any regression. We’ve seen him struggle in the past with the likes of Derek Chisora in their first meeting, Otto Wallin and Deontay Wilder in the third fight. On those occasions he didn’t feel threatened and it showed in the ring. However he was still able to get the job done, albeit looking sloppy in doing so.
The time off wouldn’t have helped and nor would the fact he was facing a boxing novice and it would have been hard to get a read on what to expect and I don’t think, he like many of us, expected much from Ngannou, who overperformed in many ways.
— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) October 29, 2023
Credit to Ngannou, and if he continues his boxing experiment he could make a few waves. I’d be intrigued to see what he could do.
When Fury fights it’s an event, he’s reached that status. However, to me, it’s a little like watching the WWE, the pantomime, theater and razzamatazz is more than the actual show. I don’t find him particular entertaining inside the ring.
So far, the usually loquacious champion has remained rather quiet post-fight. It will be interesting to see what kind of spin he puts on things.
Because we know he will.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].