The WBC heavyweight title bout between Tyson Fury and former UFC contender Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia concluded with a contentious split decision victory for Fury.
Francis Ngannou, aged 37, sent Fury to the canvas in the third round with a well-placed left hook. While one judge favored Ngannou at 95-94, two others scored it in favor of Fury at 96-93 and 95-94. It’s worth noting that Fury’s WBC heavyweight belt was not at stake in this encounter.
Tyson Fury, expressing surprise, commented on the unexpected turn of events, attributing the knockdown to a hit at the back of his head. He emphasized his quick recovery and return to his strategic boxing.
Acknowledging Ngannou’s prowess as both an elusive adversary and a formidable puncher, Tyson Fury recognized the challenge posed by this clash, labeling it one of his most demanding fights in the past decade.
The Dynamics of the Fight
Francis Ngannou, making his debut in professional boxing, cautiously initiated the opening round with a jab. Fury, seemingly content with a deliberate start, aimed to gauge his opponent’s style.
In the second round, Fury felt the power of Ngannou’s punch as he suffered a cut on his forehead from a left hook. Despite looking unprepared and sluggish, Fury experienced a knockdown in the third round, impacting his rhythm.
Struggling to recover from the earlier blow, Fury found his footing in the fifth round, delivering a precise one-two combination. While Fury attempted to box at range and employed his jab successfully, Ngannou landed heavy punches in the latter rounds.
The Controversial Decision
Despite appearances, the scorecards favored Fury. In the seventh round, Fury lunged forward, missing Ngannou and falling to his knees, deemed a slip rather than a knockdown. Ngannou showcased smart boxing skills, utilizing his MMA expertise to clinch and land body and head shots.
As the final bell rang, Fury’s face displayed the toll of the battle, yet the scorecards controversially declared him the winner. With this victory, Fury secured the commemorative ‘Riyadh champion’ belt, extending his unbeaten record to 35, with 34 wins and one draw.
Ngannou, despite the loss, reflected on a short training camp and an existing injury, expressing a determination to improve for future challenges.
The Path Forward
Tyson Fury’s triumph sets the stage for a much-anticipated bout with fellow heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. This undisputed heavyweight contest, scheduled for December 23, marks a significant event in the four-belt era.
The Extravagant Setting
The fight, held in Riyadh, featured a separate ring and arena for the undercard, culminating in a grand musical offering at the 26,000-seater Boulevard Hall stadium. Notable performers included London rapper Flowdan, Grammy award-winner Lil Baby, and American singer Becky G.
Celebrities from various fields, including Conor McGregor, Sadio Mane, Rio Ferdinand, Manny Pacquiao, and Cristiano Ronaldo, attended the event. The spectacle formed part of ‘Riyadh Season,’ an annual entertainment events festival in Saudi Arabia.
Despite the glamour, Saudi Arabia’s increased involvement in global sports has faced scrutiny due to human rights concerns. The government’s willingness to host elite sporting events as part of its global engagement strategy has sparked controversy, raising questions about the country’s human rights practices.