The world of boxing and MMA has been left reeling after Saturday night’s Battle of the Baddest in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Francis Ngannou and Tyson Fury fought for 10 hard rounds, with Fury winning via split decision (watch the highlights here). It wasn’t easy for Fury. “The Gypsy King” got knocked down in the third round and never managed to get off the offense we’ve seen in past fights. But he did enough to earn a win on the scorecards.
The fight wasn’t supposed to be so tough. Bookies had Fury a -1400 favorite to win. The promoters were so confident it’d be a cakewalk that they announced Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk for December 23rd. Now there’s real questions as to whether Fury can make that date with the damage to his face. Rather than try to field questions they had no answers to, Top Rank canceled the post-event press conference. So all we have from Fury is what he told the world in the ring following the fight.
“That definitely wasn’t in the script,” Fury admitted. “Francis is a hell of a fighter. Strong big puncher and a lot better boxer than we all thought he would ever be. Listen, he’s a very awkward man and he’s a good puncher, and I respect him a lot. Before the fight and afterward.”
“He was very awkward,” Fury said of Ngannou’s gameplan. “He wasn’t coming forward. He was standing back waiting for me to land my punches and then try to counter. He’s a good fighter. He’s given me probably one of my toughest fights in the last 10 years.”
As for the knockdown in the third round, which was when everyone realized things were going sideways for Fury?
“It’s part of boxing,” he said. “I got caught behind the head again. I wasn’t hurt or nothing, I was all right. I got up and it was what it was, I got back to my boxing. Just a flash knockdown behind the head. I think it was a glancing blow at the back of me head and it was what it was. I was all right.”
Fury suggested the performance had to do with too much time away from the ring. His last fight was win over Derek Chisora in December 2022.
“I’ve been out of the ring a long time again, 11 months in between my last fights,” Fury said. “You can see it in here, ring rust and everything. No excuses. Francis is a good fighter and he caught me with some good punches. Fair play to him. He cut me across the eye, I don’t know what that was, a left hook or head butt or something, I’m not sure.”
“But it was a rough fight. Perfect. He’s a good fighter, Francis. He hit me with some good punches and he was a lot better than we thought he’d be. Good fighter. No excuses, he’s a good boxer. He’s a lot better than I thought he’d be, and he gave me a good fight. Fair play to him. God bless him.”
There’s been more than a little controversy regarding judges awarding Fury the win, but Tyson didn’t delve into it too much.
“I don’t know how close it was,” he said. “But I got the win and that’s what it is.”
“I would like to do it again down the line,” Fury concluded. “I’m sure Francis would like to do it as well. We’ve got this man [Oleksandr Usyk] to deal with next and that’s what’s next for us. He’s a smaller man than Francis. I always said Francis was a much more dangerous fight than Oleksandr and that’s it.”
For now, Francis Ngannou will have to be happy having taken Tyson Fury to the brink of defeat. It doesn’t sound like this will be the last time we see these two fight, but it could be a while before the stars align to make a rematch happen.