RIYADH — World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury beat mixed martial arts fighter Francis Ngannou in a split decision after their boxing bout went the distance in Saudi Arabia.
Cameroonian-French Ngannou knocked Fury down in round three but the 35-year-old British fighter, though shaken, was able to continue.
The undefeated Fury earlier this week laughed off his opponent as a “big fat sausage” but afterwards acknowledged that the 37-year-old Cameroonian had effectively kept him off-balance.
“He’s a very awkward man, and he’s a good puncher and I respect him a lot,” Fury said of Ngannou, adding that it was “probably one of the toughest” fights he has had in a decade.
Fury was the overwhelming favourite against boxing novice Ngannou.
“This was my first boxing match, great experience — I’m not giving any excuse,” Ngannou said in a ringside interview.
“I know I come up short, I’m going to come back and work harder… now I know I can do this,” Ngannou added according to AFP.
The WBC had fashioned a “Riyadh Champion” belt to allow the winner to strut around the ring at the end with something other than a big, fat pay cheque.
Fury has been linked with a £50 million ($60.6 million) payout from the exhibition bout, while he has said in the British press that Ngannou will earn £10 million.
When Fury asked by Boxing King Media if he underestimated Ngannou, Fury said: ‘No, no. You can’t take anything away from Ngannou.
‘He was a good fighter, he gave me a very good fight and that was it.
I trained very well, I prepared very well, and I didn’t have any excuses or anything.
‘It’s boxing, some days you have good days, some days you don’t. You crack on and you continue.
‘Usually when the media say it’s a mismatch and it’s not worth watching and all that, usually you’re in for a tough night.
‘And if I didn’t train as hard as I did I probably wouldn’t have got through that fight.
‘He punches hard but it was a bit like a hook on the back of the head, the knockdown in round three, apart from that he didn’t really get me with much else.’