WBC heavyweight champion Fury squared off with Ngannou – a mixed martial artist and ex-UFC champion – in a professional boxing match in Saudi Arabia, with the Cameroonian stunning the Briton in Round 3 with a knockdown, clipping him on the top of the head with a fine left hook.
Ngannou, 37, was making his boxing debut yet outfought Fury, 35, for much of the bout, as a stunned audience looked on in Riyadh. After knocking down Fury, Ngannou even leant down to mock the lifelong boxer, in a surreal scene.
However, Fury avoided the first loss of his professional career when he was named a split-decision winner – 94-95, 96-93, 95-94.
Ngannou was a massive underdog in the main event in Riyadh but produced a superb performance with immense discipline and aggression, and many figures in the world of boxing declared that the “Predator” had been denied a rightful win.
After the fight, Oleksandr Usyk entered the ring to face off with Fury, whom he is contracted to fight next. Ukrainian Usyk, unbeaten like Fury, holds the unified heavyweight boxing titles. The pair have been rumoured to clash in Riyadh on 23 December, though Fury and his promoter Frank Warren played coy after the fight with Ngannou.
“That definitely wasn’t in the script,” said Fury. “[Ngannou] is a lot better of a boxer than we thought he’d be. He’s a very awkward man, and he’s a good puncher, and I respect him a lot. He was very awkward, he wasn’t coming forward; he was waiting for me to throw my punches then looking to counter.
“[The knockdown] is a part of boxing. I got caught behind the head. I got up and it was alright; I got back to my boxing.
“I don’t know how close [the fight] was, but I got the win and that’s what it is. I’ve been out the ring a long time again. You can see it in here – ring rust, everything. No excuses, though. He’s cut me across the eye there. It was a good, rough fight. Perfect.”
Usyk, 36, then said: “Let’s go. I’m going to be fighting him, amazing. It’s a big fight, the whole world wants this fight. We’re back in this ring, 23 December, thank you very much, I go to sleep.”
Fury said: “It’s been going on a long time, let’s do the fight – over here, for all the belts, the undisputed title of the world. Listen, it’s not up to me; we’d go now. These guys will sort it out, it’ll be my next fight guaranteed.”
But Warren added: “I don’t think the date will be announced just yet. This fight is on. Both fighters want it. Tyson’s got a cut there. We’ll see how it heals.
“It’s the biggest fight in boxing. Everybody wants to see it. They’ll see it in Saudi, it’ll break all box-office records.”