Tyson Fury was given a major scare before eking out a split decision win over Francis Ngannou but a showdown against Oleksandr Usyk on December 23 now appears unlikely.
Here, the PA news agency looks at what went down in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, between the heavyweight rivals and the potential ramifications.
Fury, by his own estimation the greatest heavyweight of all-time, was not only expected to win but put on a show against a mixed martial artist who had never before boxed professionally. While Ngannou holds the record for the hardest punch ever recorded, he is 37, had not fought in any capacity since January 2022 and had undergone reconstructive knee surgery in the interim. Labelled as a circus event unbecoming of boxing in certain quarters, Fury was almost the clown. Put down in the third round, he was tentative throughout and fortunate to get a razor-thin points win.
Why was the fight so close?
— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) October 29, 2023
Only Fury can answer that. He suggested he was suffering from ring rust, having last fought in December 2022 although that does not hold much water when considering Ngannou’s activity in the past two years. The obvious response is that what appeared a gross mismatch on paper led to Fury wildly underestimating his opponent. Did he cut corners in training? Some observers felt Fury was extra fleshy for this fight. He was given the benefit on the scorecards – just. But if the judge who saw it 95-94 for Fury had scored one round the other way, Ngannou would be celebrating one of the greatest sporting upsets ever.
Was Ngannou robbed?
Exactly why i don't watch boxing! C'mon man! 🤦🏾♂️
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 28, 2023
The shock knockdown allied to landing the more eye-catching blows left many wondering whether Ngannou should have had his hand raised. There is little doubting the result could have gone either way. LeBron James and Gary Lineker were among the most prominent critics of how the judges scored the fight but a robbery indicates Ngannou had everything his own way and that simply was not the case. Fury could not adjust to Ngannou’s awkward style although he employed the jab well and put together the odd combination. But just because Ngannou exceeded any expectations, it does not mean he was swindled.
As well as perhaps feeling a little chastened, Fury was left with a slight cut on his forehead and bruising over his left eye, injuries he would not have foreseen before the first bell rang. Usyk was brought into the ring afterwards and there was the expectation the undisputed fight between the WBA, IBF and WBO titlist and Fury, the WBC champion whose belt was not on the line in the 10-round encounter on Saturday, would be officially announced at the same venue for just before Christmas. The pair had a brief staredown but the hype was not there following Fury’s underwhelming performance. Fury’s promoter Frank Warren hinted his charge’s wounds would prevent a December clash.
Should we expect more crossover fights?
— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) October 29, 2023
Yes. MMA has often been viewed as boxing’s poorer relation, both in terms of its actual standing and how the sports recompense their fighters. MMA fighters have generally not done well in a boxing ring – Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva and Nate Diaz have all faltered in recent years – but Ngannou has single-handedly raised his sport’s stock. Ngannou’s success will almost certainly pave the way for more MMA stars while the Cameroonian-Frenchman said in the aftermath he intends to juggle boxing with his duties in the Professional Fighters League.
Could a Fury-Ngannou rematch be on the cards?
The lion can’t let the shark come into the jungle and nearly beat him. Ngannou’s stock is up. Fury’s stock is down in a luckluster win for Fury. #FuryvsNgannou
— Lennox Lewis, CBE, CM (@LennoxLewis) October 29, 2023
The millions both fighters banked plus the disputed nature of the result means a return bout seems almost inevitable – even if Fury intimated afterwards the Usyk fight will be next for him. While he extended his record to 34 wins and one draw from 35 contests, will Fury be satisfied that so many thought he lost to a boxing novice? Surely he will want to correct the record down the line? For now, though, Fury announced his intention to return home and spend time with his family after what he said was a long training camp and the likelihood is he will not be seen in the ring until 2024.