WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury survived what could be the biggest upset in the history of boxing in a fight against former UFC champion Ngannou in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Fury claimed a controversial split decision victory over former Ngannou in a ‘Battle of the Baddest’ fight on Saturday night.
Fury’s WBC heavyweight belt was not on the line.
The two heavyweight champions met in Riyadh in Ngannou’s first professional boxing match after his move from UFC, where he was the heavyweight champion.
Fury struggled during the 10-round fight but the judges gave him a split-decision victory, a decision that has been widely criticized given Ngannou’s impressive performance.
Ngannou, a 37-year-old Mixed Martial Art fighter, proved that his power transitioned well to boxing when he put Fury on the canvas in the third round after connecting with a left hook, but Fury secured the win on a judges’ decision of 96-93, 95-94 to Fury, 94-95 to Ngannou.
While few expected him to win, he had been training with Mike Tyson and others and many believed him to at least have a puncher’s chance, such is his power.
Ngannou who has been training with former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson boxed very smartly when he was able to close the distance, using his MMA skills to clinch and land shots to the body and head.
Fury’s face carried the damage as the final bell rang and Ngannou’s corner held his arms up high in the expectation that he was on the verge of pulling off the biggest shock in boxing history.
But the results controversially fell in Fury’s favour.
Given the impressive performance from Ngannou, there will be inevitable calls for a rematch.
Speaking after the fight, Fury admitted it was a tough fight, saying: “That wasn’t in the script. Francis is a hell of a fighter. He was strong, a big puncher, and a lot better boxer than we all thought he’d ever be.
“Listen, he’s a very awkward man, and he’s a good puncher, and I respect him a lot. Before the fight and afterwards.”
Fury’s victory means a blockbuster bout with fellow heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who holds the WBA, WBO and IBF titles, which has been signed remains on the horizon.