WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) had one of the worst performances of his career and escaped Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a split-decision victory over former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. It wasn’t the outcome that most insiders and oddsmakers expected, but they also weren’t counting on Fury looking like he did little to no preparation for the fight. The other expectation was that Ngannou would tire early and get knocked out, but to everyone’s surprise, he did the opposite and against any other opponent, would’ve had his hand raised in victory. The outcome sent MMA X on fire as fighters and media who cover MMA screamed robbery as they felt their guy should’ve won.
Impossible to state just how massive this is for MMA and MMA fighters.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) October 28, 2023
No more smugness from the boxing community.
One small step for MMA, one giant leap for Le Predateur .
This is where it gets murky. Fury weighed in on Friday at 277 pounds, and although he looked significantly lighter than he did at their press conference some months ago, it was something fight fans were accustomed to seeing and didn’t make much of it. On fight night, Fury first walked to the ring with “Pretty Woman” playing and then a rap song made specifically for him. Fury looked heavier than ever for a fight when he took his robe off. Still, no one made anything of it, as he was facing someone with a career in a completely different sport.
Although Fury started out fast in the first round to try and intimidate Ngannou, the strategy didn’t work, and Ngannou stayed composed throughout the opening round while landing some big shots of his own. After the first round, Fury started to feel that Ngannou was in there for a fight and that he wouldn’t back down at all. During the second round, a cut appeared on the forehead of Fury, which started a domino effect of events that didn’t favor “The Gypsy King’. The third round came, and Ngannou was punching with Fury, which no one expected him to do. It was effective, and in one of the exchanges, Ngannou caught Fury with a left hook to the temple, knocking Fury down for the fight's only knockdown. Fury was visibly hurt, and although Ngannou couldn’t finish him, it was clear that Fury would be in for a long night.
Throughout rounds four through seven, Ngannou looked like the more confident fighter, and Fury was doing anything to survive. He often switched to southpaw to confuse Ngannou, but nothing worked. Fury’s footwork was horrendous, and his reflexes were not as fast. This is not to discredit Ngannou, who looked well-prepared for this night. It was just a version of Fury that we weren’t used to seeing. Fury’s best round was the eighth, and after a low output ninth and tenth rounds, the fight went to the scorecards. The judges saw the fight 96-93 & 95-94 for Fury, while the other judge had it 95-94 for Ngannou. It was a close fight, but everyone knew that if Ngannou was fighting anyone else, he would be discussing a decision victory today, but that didn’t happen. Fury escapes Riyadh season with a victory but leaves many questions unanswered about his future.
DID FRANCIS NGANNOU RUIN THE TYSON FURY VS. OLEKSANDR USYK UNDISPUTED SHOWDOWN?
All the talk before the fight was the undisputed showdown between Fury & Oleksandr Usyk, which was tentatively scheduled for December 23. While Usyk was in attendance and was brought up to the ring after the fight, the conversation quickly turned into that fight being signed, but the date is likely to change. Usyk was adamant about keeping the December date, but Fury and his promoter, Frank Warren, were trying their best to spin the disaster performance and make the Usyk fight for a later date. If you remember, a few weeks back, it was Fury who said he would not budge from December 23, but how quickly things change after that lackluster performance. Fury was embarrassed last night, and if he ever wants to be competitive against Usyk, he has a lot of work to do. The Fury vs. Usyk fight will still happen but look for it to happen later than December, thanks to the excellent performance by Ngannou.
One thing that stays true in boxing is that you never know what will happen in the ring, which is why you fight the fights. MMA fans will make sure to remind boxing fans of this night for years to come, and those who follow the sweet science will have to take it.