Tyson Fury survives almighty scare to beat Francis Ngannou on points

Tyson Fury survives an almighty scare against boxing newcomer Francis Ngannou… as the Gypsy King battles back from third round knock down to secure a split decision victory on the judges scorecards

  • Tyson Fury was knocked down by Francis Ngannou in the third round
  • Fury got back to his feet and fought his way back into the contest
  • There was little to split the pair, but Fury just got the nod from the judges 

Tyson Fury, his massive paymasters, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the best laid plans of world heavyweight boxing were shaken to the roots before the Gypsy King staged the narrowest of escapes from the sensational loss of his unbeaten record.

A single point on the third card of a split decision saved the hundreds of millions of dollars in waiting for Fury to dispute with Oleksandr Usyk and preserved a shot at the honour of becoming the first undisputed world heavyweight champion for more than a decade.

The Ukrainian, holder of the other title belts not in the fiefdom of the Gypsy King, was sitting at ringside and how he must have been wishing this had been his night in the ring with a Fury as sluggish and disjointed as this.

And to think that this source of screaming alarm was a UFC fighter crossing over for his first official boxing match.

Francis Ngannou sent Tyson Fury to the canvas with a thunderous left hook in round three

Fury got back to his feet to box his way into the fight and won narrowly on points

Fury just did enough to hold onto his heavyweight title, but Ngannou pushed him closer than many expected

Francis Ngannou gave such a magnificent account of himself that no-one would have begrudged him the triumph of his life. Except the financiers with plenty to lose.

Has there ever been a boxing debut this remarkable? In the end he missed out by one score of 95-94 in his favour to two – 94-95 and 96-93 respectively – in favour of Fury. Technically I have to agree with the King keeping his crown but it was a closer call than any of us truly imagined. An exhibition match? This was a war.

Fury lives to make another mint and fight another day. Whether that day against Usyk will be December 23 remains to be seen by how quickly recovers from being flattened in the third round – he got up from a knock down as he usually does – and being banged about quite a bit by a supposedly cleverly-chosen opponent.

Whatever Iron Mike Tyson taught Ngannou in recent weeks, it came close to paying enormous dividends.

Ngannou grew in confidence throughout the fight, and even tried a ‘Superman’ punch in the final round

Dawn had broken over the desert to confirmation that the big fight had been sanctioned as on official boxing match by the British Boxing Board of Control.

The organisers had been pressing for this recognition for weeks – with Fury’s encouragement, even though this put him at risk of losing his cherished status as undefeated. So this fight suddenly materialised on his official record, awaiting only the result. That would be a while coming on this long night.

It all began in the so-called Undercard Arena, an understatement in massive contrast to the concerted advertising of the main event.

This was situated in the mild outdoors in front of the vaulted stage and monster screens which had been the setting for the star-studded events of fight week. Many a world title fight has been disputed in far less salubrious surroundings.

But this was not good enough for the Battle of the Baddest. So in Saudi Arabia you get two arenas for the price of one.

A few steps away, the Boulevard Yard Hall awaited Fury and Ngannou. A 20,000 seater venue which had been constructed on virgin soil in only 90 days, in astonishing contrast to the three years it would have taken to build in London or Las Vegas. And just in time.

They were still putting the finishing touches to Riyadh’s latest sporting mecca as the first supporting bout began outside. Unlike many an Olympic venue, this complex will not go to rot after its first big night. The Undercard Arena will be busy again before Fury fights Usyk on December 23. With more of its ilk to come.

The big hall is designed not only so it can keep putting on the mega-fights and big bands but also to be transformed into an indoor football stadium for the Saudi League team in which Neymar now plays. First match next week.

On opening night it was a cathedral fit for a king. The Gypsy King.

The Undercard Arena had been a hive of excitement and when the last bell sounded the full crowd of some 3,000 went charging over to join the biggest collection of all-time greats, principally from boxing but also from showbiz and other sports, ever gathered in one place.

Riyadh put on a spectacular opening ceremony prior to the main event

Fury looks set to fight Oleksandr Usyk, but plans for an undisputed clash nearly went up in smoke in Riyadh


ROUND 1 – Fury 10-9 Ngannou

ROUND 2 – Fury 9-10 Ngannou

ROUND 3 – Fury 8-10 Ngannou

ROUND 4 –  Fury 10-9 Ngannou

ROUND 5 – Fury 10-9 Ngannou 

ROUND 6 – Fury 10-9 Ngannou 

ROUND 7 – Fury 10-9 Ngannou 

ROUND 8 – Fury 9-10 Ngannou 

ROUND 9 – Fury 10-9 Ngannou 

ROUND 10 – Fury 10-9 Ngannou

FINAL SCORE: Fury 96-93 Ngannou 

That arena was already heaving in anticipation of the electrifying song, dance, fire and light show which opened the Riyadh season – a festival packed with concerts, art, culture and multiple sports which runs well into the New Year all across the capital.

Here was emergent Saudi Arabia revealing its new self to the world.

The show was a stunning spectacle of thunderous noise and pounding dancers and it came to a crescendo as the ring rose through the floor to greet the gladiators.

But if there is a single sportsman on earth with the raging charisma to make himself the star of a night such as this it is Tyson Fury. At well past one in the morning it was his turn to take the stage. Rising from a golden throne shedding the robes and crown of a monarch and jogging to confront Ngannou.

Fury was stripped and itching to go while Michael Buffer was still getting us Ready to Rumble. Then he told Ngannou: ‘I’m gonna bash you up.’ The first bash, a right, came from Ngannou but after some fending Fury imposed his left jab and took the round with a hefty right.

Ngannou was showing better ringcraft than expected, however, and in the second round Fury switched to southpaw to try to confuse. It worked to some extent but not enough to save the round.

Round three, if in any doubt, proved this was no exhibition. A serious fight. Tyson was rocked back by a heavy left. Then a monster of the same variety and here was the first sensation delivered by the former UFC star. Down went Tyson and although he rose from adversity as usual, the shock was as palpable in the crowd as in the ring.

Ngannou had the confidence to turn southpaw at times, and hurt Fury on multiple occasions

Caught again by the heavy handed Ngannou in round four, Fury was having to clinch at times to keep him at bay. Although he edged the round with a late burst of action. 

Sensing his fortunes and a career were in jeopardy, Fury responded in the fifth with two huge rights which rocked Ngannou. In the sixth, he went into hit and dance mode but this was now about winning somehow, no matter how it looked.

There were cheers for Mike Tyson when his face went up on the screen during the seventh, and whatever the Iron Man had taught Ngannou, it had turned this from a show into a war.

Ngannou’s left hook was a dangerous weapon throughout, and it caught Fury as he fell in several times

Ngannou was back in business in round eight with two massive left hooks which sent Fury reeling and then a flurry of punches which had the Gypsy King close to being floored again.

Was disaster pending? Fury kept the left jab working to keep the points mounting  and stay of trouble in the ninth, ensuring we went the distance.

To the last and Fury boxed it through with his left, presumably believing he had done just about enough. He had. Though only just. 

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