In a contest billed as ‘Battle of the Baddest’, Tyson Fury was given a severe scare by Francis Ngannou, eventually scraping a split decision win in the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia after ten rounds.
The crossover fight was a huge event in the Middle East, pitting the current WBC heavyweight boxing champion in against a former UFC heavyweight champion. Ngannou had no previous boxing experience, but had made a name for himself as a hard-punching talent in the MMA world, while Fury was coming off a trilogy win against Derek Chisora in Tottenham last December in defence of his title.
After a lengthy build-up and introductions it was down to business, and Fury nailed Ngannou with his jab and a raking right hand, but the Cameroonian was unfazed, and held his own as the first round came to a close.
Ngannou elected to be patient, rather than fire at will as expected, and that took ’The Gypsy King’ by surprise, and in the third round, the underdog scored a seismic shock by dropping Fury with a sweeping left hand, but he ran out of time to capitalise, with the 35-year-old beating the count and the bell coming to his aid.
Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) regrouped, and the fifth saw him land two clean right hands, while ‘The Predator’ started to understandably slow down after halfway, but he was still a live opponent, catching the Manchester man with a short left hand in the eighth, along with an eye-catching combination, and he was more than willing to trade.
Fury was also looking fatigued, and he wasn’t sensing the urgency in a quiet penultimate frame, choosing to flick out his jab, rather than unload, and as the contest went into the final round, it seemed up for grabs.
Fury just couldn’t find the opening, with Ngannou remaining calm and taking the stiff jabs and winging punches that the Morecambe man had to offer as the bout went to the cards.
One judge tallied 95-94 for Ngannou, but was overruled by scores of 95-94 and 96-93 for Fury, who can count himself fortunate in victory.
All eyes now turn to a mooted December 23 undisputed world title fight with Oleksandr Usyk for Fury, with the Ukrainian in attendance in the arena.
Wardley stops Adeleye
The grudge match on the card went the way of Fabio Wardley, who defended his British heavyweight title, as well as his WBA Continental bauble, and added the vacant Commonwealth crown, and the WBO European strap belonging to David Adeleye via seventh round stoppage.
Adeleye (12-1, 11 KOs) started brightly, and landed a sweeping left hand in the opener that got Wardley’s attention. The pair were evenly matched, with the contest on a knife-edge, and Wardley (17-0, 16 KOs) edged into the contest, troubling his rival in the fourth with a stiff jab followed by a sharp follow-up attack.
The pair exchanged in the fifth, and Adeleye’s energy was draining as the two went past six rounds for the first time. The seventh saw the breakthrough for the champion, as he dropped Adeleye with a left hand from a clinch.
Although the Londoner survived the count, a volley of punches had Adeleye tottering towards the ropes, where the referee called a halt to the contest.
Parker KO’s Kean
Joseph Parker continued his rebuild after his September 2022 knockout loss to Joe Joyce, as he took the vacant IBF and WBO Intercontinental heavyweight belts with a third round knockout of the overmatched Simon Kean.
Parker (33-3, 23 KOs) uncorked a sweetly-timed uppercut to end matters after Kean (23-2, 22 KOs) had goaded him to do so, and the New Zealander banked his third straight win.
Bakole blasts out Takam
Martin Bakole weighed in a career-heaviest 299 pounds, but he went through the gears impressively before halting Carlos Takam in the fourth round of their meeting.
Bakole (20-1, 15 KOs) opened up in the fourth to head and body of Takam (40-8-1, 28 KOs), and the referee jumped in.
Arslanbek Makhmudov (18-0, 17 KOs) is a name to keep an eye on, and he added the vacant WBA Intercontinental belt to his NABF strap by seeing off Junior Anthony Wright (20-5-1, 17 KOs) in just over a minute.
Moses Itauma (6-0, 4 KOs) wasted little time in blasting out Istvan Bernath (10-2, 8 KOs), removing the Hungarian from battle in under two minutes of their scheduled six rounder.
In the only non-heavyweight contest on the bill, Jack McGann (9-0-1, 6 KOs) needed just two rounds to dispatch Roberto Duran Jr (12-4, 9 KOs).