Moment Francis Ngannou knocked down Tyson Fury in Riyadh

Francis Ngannou and Tyson Fury

Moment Francis Ngannou knocked down Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury was on the canvas in the third round in his ‘Battle of the Baddest’ fight against Francis Ngannou, but emerged with a split-decision win.

Fury struggled to impose himself on the fight but the judges gave him a split-decision victory in Riyadh on Saturday night. The fight will likely be discussed for many months to come given the impressive nature of Ngannou’s performance.

Tyson Fury escaped defeat in a split-decision victory over Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.

The pair met in Riyadh in what was Ngannou’s first professional boxing match after his move from UFC, where he was the heavyweight champion.

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.

Fury, meanwhile, came to the ring as the undefeated WBC heavyweight champion, one of the pound-for-pound best and despite standing a full 6′ 9″, is a fluid and technical boxer.

The two were fighting for the chance to call themselves ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’ with Fury not putting his belt on the line ahead of an expected undisputed clash with unified champion Oleksandr Usyk later this year, or early 2024.

The ‘Gypsy King’ came in at his heaviest ever, 277lbs, and delivered some heavy right-handers in the first round, looking slightly agitated, while Ngannou did not look immediately out of his depth despite just two amateur fights to his name.

In the second round, both fighters switched stances and there were suspicions of a cut on the forehead of Fury, recalling the cut against Otto Wallin that almost cost him a win back in 2019.

A decent left from Ngannou in the third had Fury on the back foot briefly, and then the Cameroonian struck a massive punch to send the world champion onto the canvas.

Fury looked stunned and rattled but got back to his feet and then spent the rest of the round dancing away from his opponent to seek respite in the corner, before acknowledging his rival’s success once the bell rang with a friendly jab in the arm. Fury, of course, had been sent to the floor before by Deontay Wilder, and recovered to win.

In the fourth, Fury found himself unsteady in the corner as a confident Ngannou showed no reticence in coming forward.

At the end of the round, Ngannou could consider himself ahead on points and Fury would have been aware that he needed to step up his intensity if he did not want to count on exploiting his experience in the championship rounds.

A quiet start from the fifth stepped up a gear with a combination from Fury that snapped Ngannou’s head back and signalled a potential way through.

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Perhaps Fury was rusty after almost a full year of inactivity, with his last competitive action a relatively undemanding trilogy rematch against Derek Chisora, and before that a summertime clash with Dillian Whyte.

The sixth round was relatively uneventful, but there were signs that Ngannou was slowing the pace. With UFC fights lasting five rounds maximum, there were questions about whether Ngannou would find himself gassed.

In the seventh round, Fury betrayed frustration as he slipped to the floor as he flailed in an attempt to force the fight in his favour, and both men retired to the corner as the damage started to show on both faces.

The eighth round saw Fury draw gasps from the crowd with a right hook, but Ngannou responded with his own flurry that left his opponent backing off into the corner and both fighters started to exchange some big shots.

Fury started to look tired with a minute left as the mixed martial arts man stepped up the pace and pressure once more.

In the ninth round Fury might have assumed that he needed a stoppage to rescue the result but the round drifted to an uneventful close, setting up a 10th round that almost nobody expected.

Ngannou did not wait for the judges’ scorecards to start celebrating towards the crowd, though Fury was quietly confident himself.

The judges ultimately ruled in favour of Fury, scoring it 96-93, 95-94 to the Briton, and one judge awarding 94-95 to Ngannou.

Given the nature of the performance from Ngannou, there will be inevitable calls for a rematch.

Speaking after the fight, Fury admitted it was a tough fight, saying: “That definitely wasn’t in the script. Francis is a hell of a fighter. 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.

“He was very awkward, he wasn’t coming forward, he was just standing back waiting for me to land my punches and then trying to counter. He’s given me probably one of my toughest fights in the last 10 years.”

Discussing the knockdown, he added: “It’s part of boxing, I got caught behind my head again, I wasn’t hurt or nothing. I was alright, it was what it was.
“I don’t know how close it was, but I got the win.

“I’ve been out of the ring a long time again, 11 months since my last fight and you can see it in here, ring rust. No excuses, he’s a good fighter and caught me with some good punches. I’ve got a cut above my left eye. If it’s from a headbutt I’m not sure.”

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