World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury was knocked down by mixed martial arts fighter Francis Ngannou in the three round, but the 35-year-old British fighter was able to get back up.
However, Fury prevailed in a split decision over Ngannou during their lengthy boxing bout on Sunday in Saudi Arabia.
The undefeated Fury later admitted that Francis Ngannou, a 37-year-old Cameroonian, had successfully kept him off-balance.
Probably My Toughest Fight In 10 Years – Fury
“He’s a very awkward man, and he’s a good puncher and I respect him a lot,” Fury said of Francis Ngannou, adding that it was “probably my toughest fight in 10 years”.
This Was My First Boxing Match, Great Experience – 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.”
Fury came out swinging in the first round with a hard right hand but sustained a cut to the forehead in the second round and looked especially sluggish after hitting the mat in the third.
The final rounds dragged as both men tired, neither able to land a decisive blow.
“I don’t know how close it was, but I got the win and that’s how it was,” Fury said.
“Fair play to Francis, he cut my head here. It was a good fight.”
In the “Battle of the Baddest” in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Fury’s WBC heavyweight belt was not put on the line, but Saudi officials were hoping it would further enhance the Gulf kingdom’s reputation as a premier boxing destination.
The WBC created a “Riyadh Champion” belt so that the winner strut around the ring at the end wearing something other than a large paycheck, since both sides were eager to give the competition some sporting credibility.
While Fury has said in the British press that Ngannou will receive £10 million, he has been linked with a £50 million ($60.6 million) payout from Sunday’s exhibition fight.
December will see Fury face the much more serious Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine in Riyadh. Usyk is presently holding the other three world titles.
“I’m going to go home, I’ve been in training camp for 12 weeks,” he said on Sunday.
“I’ll take a long hard rest and see what’s next for us.”