Heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has defeated MMA star Francis Ngannou by split decision in a 10-round boxing bout in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The match was tightly fought, with Fury, 35, relying on his jab early on in the match, switching to left-handed briefly in the second round when Ngannou made some headway and even opened a cut above Fury’s left eye.
It was in the third round when Fury dropped to the floor with an almighty left hook that Ngannou, 37, proved he wasn’t going anywhere.
It was only the seventh time Fury has been knocked down during his career.
Ngannou staggered Fury early in the fourth round, but the undefeated heavyweight champion stayed on his feet and the rest of the round was fairly even after that.
Fury appeared to gain control late in the fifth round and carried it over into the sixth, but Ngannou delivered three powerful lefts early in the eighth, as the boxers continually traded blows.
Fans could be heard chanting “Francis! Francis!” early in the 10th round, but ultimately the former UFC heavyweight champion’s first fight with a professional boxer, ended with a controversial split decision from the judging panel.
One judge scored 95-94 to Ngannou, but the other two officials scored the fight 96-93 and 95-94 to Fury.
Ngannou landed 37 power shots to Fury’s 32, in addition to the knockdown, according to statistics from CompuBox. Fury landed more punches overall, 71-59, including 14 in the final two rounds, versus just six for Ngannou.
The fight was described by Fury as one of his “toughest” in the last 10 years, adding that Ngannou is a “better boxer than we all thought he would be”.
Speaking after the match, Ngannou said: “It didn’t go my way.”
“I might have come up short today. I’ll come back.”
The fight was littered with celebrity faces including Kanye West and Eminem, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo, UFC headliner Conor McGregor and current and former boxing greats, Sugar Ray Leonard and Manny Pacquiao.
Fury has now turned his attention to the undisputed heavyweight championship clash with Oleksandr Usyk.
“Let’s go,” Fury said after the match, to which Usyk replied the same.
Fury’s win comes after his younger brother, Tommy Fury, defeated YouTuber KSI on a majority decision after a six-round cruiserweight match in Manchester on 15 October.