Rocky ride in Riyadh: Tyson Fury edges Francis Ngannou by split decision
Fabio Wardley KOs David Adeleye in co-feature
Photo Courtesy: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
It wasn’t without its fair share of surprises, but The Gypsy King prevailed.
WBC & lineal heavyweight boxing world champion Tyson Fury overcame an early knockdown to secure a 10-round split decision victory over lineal MMA heavyweight world champion Francis Ngannou Saturday evening at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The long-awaited battle of behemoths kicked off Riyadh Season, one of the world’s leading entertainment festivals, which runs throughout the winter months in the Kingdom’s largest city.
In the opening seconds, Fury leaped from his corner to land a quick right, but Ngannou’s awkwardness and strength soon slowed the pace. Then, as he appeared to get his rhythm, Fury was dropped with a counter left hook from Ngannou.
Fury got back to his feet to face a fired-up Ngannou, but a few robust right hands from The Gypsy King help to temper the MMA legend’s aggression.
Fury continued to box, though he received numerous punches as he engaged with Ngannou on the inside in the eighth round, after which he resumed his outside game to try to secure the final two rounds.
Fury returned successfully from an almost 11-month layoff with scores of 96-93 and 95-94, which overruled one score of 95-94 for Ngannou.
Fury said, "That definitely wasn’t in the script. He’s one hell of a fighter. He’s strong, a big puncher, and a lot better as a boxer than we thought he would ever be. He’s a very awkward man, and he’s a good puncher. I respect him a lot, before the fight and afterward.
“He was very awkward. He wasn’t coming forward. He was standing back and waiting for me to land my punches and then try to counter. He’s a good fighter. He’s given me one of my toughest fights in the last 10 years.
“It’s part of boxing. I got caught behind the head again. My legs weren’t hurt or nothing. I was alright. And I got back up and it was what it was. And I got back to my boxing. I don’t know how close it was. But I got the win, and that’s what it is.”
Ngannou said, "We can run it back again, and I’m sure I will get the better. This was my first boxing match. It was a great experience. I’m not giving any excuse. I know I came up short. But I’m going to go back and work harder with a little more experience and a little more feeling of the game. And I will come back even stronger.
"At first, I was a little nervous. This is a new sport that I never did. Now I know I can do this sh*t. So, get ready!"
Heavyweight: In an all-British showdown, Fabio Wardley (17-0, 16 KOs) put an exclamation point on a bitter, months-long rivalry with David Adeleye (12-1, 11 KOs) by scoring a seventh-round TKO. Wardley pressed the action while Adeleye circled the ring. Adeleye found openings in the fifth round, but in round seven, Wardley was back in control with firm jabs. Then, while separating from a clinch, Wardley landed a right-left combo that floored Adeleye and ended matters with another combo shortly thereafter. Time of stoppage: 2:43.
Heavyweight Former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker (33-3, 23 KOs) defeated Canadian knockout artist Simon Kean (23-2, 22 KOs) via third-round TKO. Parker spent the first two rounds deciphering Kean’s defense. He then began to land uppercuts in between Kean's guard, first wobbling him and then stopping him with another. Time of stoppage: 2:04.
Heavyweight: Montreal-based wrecking ball Arslanbek Makhmudov (18-0, 17 KOs) notched a first-round TKO against Junior Anthony Wright (20-5-1, 17 KOs). Makhmudov dropped Wright with a right hand followed by consecutive left hooks. Wright survived the knockdown, but another right hand by "The Lion" nearly had Wright out on his feet, forcing referee Steve Gray to stop the fight. Time of stoppage: 1:10.
Heavyweight: 18-year-old British prodigy Moses Itauma (6-0, 4 KOs) iced Istvan Bernath (10-2, 8 KOs) via first-round TKO. Itauma sent Bernath to the canvas with a jab before ending matters with combinations around Bernath's guard. Time of stoppage: 1:53.
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