Tyson Fury may have escaped with the win in Saudi Arabia but Francis Ngannou ended up being the real winner with a story made for Hollywood.
The former UFC heavyweight champion was given no chance to beat WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. But Ngannou bet on himself when nobody else would, dropped Fury and came as close as anyone has come to beating the champion.
He ended up falling just short as Fury managed to outbox him to escape with a split-decision victory. Two judges scored it in favor of Fury with scores of 96-93 and 95-94 while a third judge had it for Ngannou with a 95-94 score.
It was a stunning performance from Ngannou, who made his professional boxing debut against the best heavyweight of this generation. Very few gave him a chance to win, much less make it competitive. But the 37-year-old nearly shocked the world and pulled off what may have been the biggest upset in the history of sports.
Fortunately for Fury, he escaped with the win and his undisputed heavyweight championship fight with Oleksandr Usyk was salvaged. However, the proposed date for December 23 may be in doubt as neither Fury nor promoter Frank Warren would confirm the date.
And that heavyweight megafight came this close to blowing up in their face.
It was expected to be a spectacle with very little substance and turned out to be an event that will be talked about for a long time.
A bevy of early undercard knockouts and an expensive opening ceremony where the ring emerged from underground to the sounds of Lil Baby and Becky G set the stage for the massive crossover encounter.
Ngannou’s entrance was spectacular as the former UFC heavyweight champion emerged seated on a throne with his name scribed on the back, wearing a crown and golden robe as Cameroonian flags were waved alongside him. Mike Tyson lifted the crown off Ngannou’s head as UFC fighters Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya joined him on his way to the ring.
Fury followed by walking the halls lined with legendary boxers and danced to Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” as he made his way to the ring. But the fun and games ended for Fury as soon as the opening bell rang.
Unlike other mixed martial artists who tried their hand at boxing, Ngannou looked the part after a single round against Fury. He refused to fall for Fury’s tricks, held his composure and boxed as well as anyone has against Fury in recent memory.
The stunning moment came in the third round when Ngannou caught Fury with a right hand and sent “The Gypsy King” to the canvas. A look of shock was worn on the face of Fury as he rose to his feet and completed the round.
What was thought to be a glorified sparring session ended up being a nip-and-tuck affair between two gargantuan heavyweights. Fury needed to resort to his boxing as Ngannou pressed forward, landed power shots and proved to be the challenger he made himself out to be.
Fury managed to score points by prodding with the jab in the middle rounds to negate the knockdown. But Ngannou never gave up and found a way to outbox Fury in the final third of the 10-round encounter. But it wasn’t enough as Fury remained undefeated and avoided being the laughing stock of the sport.
“Now I know I can do this sh-t,” Ngannou said following the loss with a smile. “Get ready, baby! The wolf is in the house!”
This may not be the last time we see Francis Ngannou in a boxing ring.
The Sporting News was following the event live, with commentary below.
Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou updates
Round Ten: Left hook lands from Fury and Ngannou barely misses one of his own. Chants for “Francis” are ringing out. Fury can’t find his target. Not much happening. Fury with another jab. One minute left. Ngannou just went for a superman punch because why not? Nothing happening as the round comes to a close.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Fury (96-93 Fury)
Round Nine: Ngannou opens the round landing a left hand flush. Fury firing the jab. Right hand lands from Fury. Fury bouncing on his toes like he just realized this is serious. They exchange hooks. Fury popping the jab. Not exciting but Fury takes the round.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Fury (86-84 Fury)
Round Eight: Ngannou walks into a right hand and they clinch. Fury lands a right hand but Ngannou responds by catching him with a left. Fury jabs and tries to find the uppercut. Fury lands one but Ngannou takes it. Ngannou lands a trio of punches. Hard right hand from Fury moves Ngannou. Ngannou is still coming and lands a combination. Small brawl breaks out. Fury ties him up. This is insane. Fury is slowing down. Right hand from Ngannou lands clean. Another Ngannou round.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Ngannou (76-75 Fury)
Round Seven: Hard right hand lands for Ngannou. Fury is fine but he’s learning that Ngannou is better than he thought. Ngannou rushes in and lands a left hand. Pair of right hands land for Fury. Ngannou takes the round as Fury seemingly takes it off.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Ngannou (67-65 Fury)
Round Six: Left hand lands for Fury as Ngannou is starting to slow down. Ngannou launches a bunch of big shots but falls short. Fury’s jab has more snap on it now. Short right hand from Fury lands. Ngannou is losing his composure as Fury slides into a rhythm.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Fury (58-55 Fury)
Round Five: Ngannou lands a right hand and Fury gives one back. Both big men stand firm. Fury pops the jab. Fury lands a right hand on Ngannou’s temple. Fury sweeps with the right hand. A lot of clinching now. They both miss big uppercuts. Big right hand from Fury lands and Ngannou tries to respond. Fury is slowly picking him apart but Ngannou ain’t going away.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Fury (48-46 Fury)
Round Four: Ngannou starts the round landing a right hand. Counter left from Ngannou. Left hand from Fury lands clean. But Ngannou is building confidence. What in the world is going on??? Fury lands a left and Ngannou barely misses a right hand and shoves Fury across the ring. Chopping right hand from Fury lands. Ngannou takes it well. Combination from Fury lands clean. Fury may have buzzed Ngannou. Fury misses a sweeping right hand but is finding his rhythm now.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Fury (38-37 Fury)
Round Three: Ngannou is very composed. Misses a right hand but lands a left. Ngannou to the body. Fury jabbing but can’t find what he wants. They clinch again as Fury advances. Ngannou lands and drops Fury!!!! Fury is up as the round comes to a close.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-8 Ngannou (28-28)
Round Two: Ngannou starts the round with a body shot and moves inside. Fury circles off and lands a left hand to the head. Ngannou getting more aggressive. Ngannou lands a left hook and lands a right hand on the inside. Fury switches stances and lands a right hook. Body head combination from Fury. Fury has a small cut above the brow. Ngannou blocks a combination and they clinch. Better round for Ngannou.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Fury (20-18 Fury)
Round One: Fury rushes in and lands a right hand. Combination by Fury lands clean. Fury jabbing and Ngannou misses a big right hand. They clinch for a while. Fury feinting and looking to see what Ngannou does. Body jabs from Fury. Jab to the body from Ngannou. Big right hand from Fury over the top lands flush. Ngannou attempts to respond but misses. Fury peppering him with jabs as the round comes to a close.
SN Unofficial Scorecard: 10-9 Fury
6:35 p.m. ET: Tyson Fury has now entered the ring. The entrance started with him walking the halls of the arena as the legend of boxing lined the walls. Fury also sat on a throne as a video package played before Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” played. Fury bounced out of his throne and shadowboxed. Fury then paced back and forth as his father and team followed before heading to the ring. It’s finally time.
6:30 p.m. ET: Francis Ngannou has entered the ring. He emerged from a throne wearing a crown and was flanked by a group waving the flags of Cameroon. Mike Tyson removed the crown and accompanied Ngannou and his team to the ring as Drake’s “God’s Plan” played. Just before he entered the ring, Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman joined their fellow MMA fighter.
6:13 p.m. ET: What an opening ceremony that was! But now that is over and it’s time to fight! Fury vs. Ngannou is up next and we’re going with round-by-round coverage for as long as this heavyweight fight goes.
5:45 p.m. ET: The ceremony has started with a performance by Lil Baby. The production is insane.
5:00 p.m. ET: We are moments away from the main event. But first, there will be an opening ceremony for this massive crossover fight with live performances. Stay tuned.
4:55 p.m. ET: Fabio Wardley has put an end to his rivalry with Adeleye with a 7th round TKO. What was thought to be a competitive fight was anything but as Wardley was in total control from the second round on. He worked behind a strong jab and kept Adeleye on his back foot for the duration of the fight. Wardley slowly opened up the toolbox and dropped Adeleye with a right-left combination. Adeleye managed to get to his feet but was met with a violent barrage of heavy punches to force the referee to rescue him. Shockingly, Adeleye hit the referee with a light body punch in protest of the stoppage. He’ll certainly be fined for that one.
4:40 p.m. ET: At the end of the fourth round, it’s becoming clear that Wardley is in control. He’s busier and pushing Adeleye backward. Adeleye is going to need something significant to turn the tide.
4:32 p.m. ET: After two rounds, Wardley vs. Adeleye has turned out to be a battle of skill instead of the brawl that some expected. Wardley landed a hard counter at the end of the round but neither have been in much trouble as of yet. Maybe things will turn now that they have felt each other out.
4:11 p.m. ET: Due to all of the early finishes, we have a delay until we see the co-main event between heated rivals Fabio Wardley and David Adeleye. But it’s coming soon and then the ceremony before the main event.
3:33 p.m. ET: You want knockouts? Well, another one just took place as Joseph Parker destroyed Simon Kean with a blistering uppercut. Parker clipped Kean and Kean responded by waving Parker in. That bravado got Kean knocked out as Parker rolled in and launched a devastating uppercut that sank his opponent for the duration of the ten count. Sometimes, you get what you asked for.
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) October 28, 2023
3:02 p.m. ET: Coming up next is Joseph Park as a significant favorite against Simon Kean.
2:48 p.m. ET: And we have yet another first round knockout. Arslanbek Makhmudov put Anthony Wright down early in the first and then detonated another tremendous right hand to finish the job.
2:38 p.m. ET: Up next is more heavyweight action that few expect to need the judges to render a result as Arslanbek Makhmudov faces Anthony Wright.
2:26 p.m. ET: Two heavyweight fights, two knockouts. Martin Bakole struck first, taking out Carlos Takam with a fourth round TKO. Shortly after, Moses Itauma wasted little time dispatching of Istvan Bernath in a matter of seconds.
THAT WAS QUICK 😳
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) October 28, 2023
Martin Bakole s’impose au 4ème round par TKO face au camerounais Carlos Takam! Félicitations au champion, pourvu qu’il combatte pour le titre prochainement! https://t.co/VB0Q57AHE6 pic.twitter.com/TKW0T7nHSG
— ғᴀʙʀɪᴄᴇ ᴍᴠɪᴛᴀ (@fmayfield8) October 28, 2023
How to watch Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou
In the U.S., Fury vs. Ngannou is available on ESPN+ PPV. It is available via TNT Sports Box Office in the U.K. and DAZN in Australia.
|Region||TV channel||Live streaming|
|United States||—||ESPN+ PPV|
|UK and Ireland||—||TNT Sports Box Office|