It wasn’t the big desert heist that the internet mania would have you believe. Nor was it the absurd deception that most had predicted.
Tyson Fury put in his most feverish performance since becoming world heavyweight champion and endured the pain of being corrected for assuming this would be a stroll through the dunes of Arabia.
So much so that his long-awaited duel with Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed world heavyweight title had to be postponed again, this time from December 23rd into the new year.
Francis Ngannou jumped from the octagon cage into the square boxing ring with astonishing speed. By knocking Fury down early and then pounding him with convulsive blows, he turned the dubious prospect of an exhibition into a brutal unarmed fight and himself into a hero.
The UFC icon also gave the Gypsy King a run for his money, catching the attention of most millions of viewers. Who doesn’t become an outsider and propose it to the big dog? But in the end, two of the judges scored for Fury. As did myself and the majority of an extraordinary gathering of boxing legends drawn to a night of fabulously expensive and glitzy promotion of the new Saudi Arabia.
Tyson Fury earned a narrow split decision victory over Francis Ngannou on Saturday
Fury put in his most feverish performance since becoming world heavyweight champion
Ngannou sent Fury to the ground in the third round as the Englishman was shaken
These include Iron Mike Tyson, who helped teach Ngannou the art of boxing, and Lennox Lewis, who, until Fury and Usyk finally make it, is still the last undisputed world heavyweight champion.
Fury, brought back from the silver screen and from the brink of a catastrophe that would have sent hundreds of Saudi millions into the void with him, needed to be saved from himself.
The courage and pride with which he had once again pulled himself up from horizontal adversity in his undefeated career led him to insist that he would still go ahead with his Christmas cracker against Usyk. He said, “Let’s do it on December 23rd.”
Promoter Frank Warren revealed: “I had to convince him in the locker room.” Forget any talk about this fight never happening. It’s a signed, done deal. There’s a lot of money at stake (think $200 million for Fury if you factor in a rematch, whoever wins), but that will now take place in January or February. Tyson trains every day of his life and was at full strength preparing for Usyk three times before they always backed out of the fight, and also for Ngannou.
“The head cut wouldn’t be a problem, nor would bumps and bruises. “But he needs time to cool down, spend Christmas with his family and get back on his feet after a bad night at the office.”
He does. Fury was lumbering and unfocused as hostilities began after the spectacular sound and light show at an indoor soccer stadium built from the sand in just 90 days to open Riyadh’s months-long season of numerous entertainment and sporting events.
If the biggest upset of all time – a WBC heavyweight champion humiliated by an MMA fighter in his boxing debut – didn’t happen, then the 25,000 spectators in a cheering crowd experienced the numbing shock of seeing Fury appear his voluptuous ass was thrown.
Then they and the pay-per-viewers got some unexpected value for their money as Ngannou amazed us all. The downside for boxers in the UK and US is that the success of this event makes it even more likely that the biggest fights of the near future, particularly those of the heavyweights, will take place here rather than at T-Mobile’s Wembley Stadium in Vegas or in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Fury insisted he still wanted to fight Oleksandr Usyk on December 23, but the fight will now take place next year
Former heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson was responsible for teaching Ngannou the art of boxing
Ngannou believes his performance against Fury proves he ‘can box with the best’
The money inevitably goes to the Saudis, not least because the crown prince is an enthusiastic boxing fan. But after the flamboyant display of this fight and the drama it delivered, the power is great too.
Warren points out that it will not only feature Fury-Usyk, but also a contracted rematch. This will be completed by 2023. And who wouldn’t want the Gypsy King and Ngannou to try again now that Mr. UFC says, “I’ve proven I can box with the best of them.” “One or two more big fights and I’m ready to do better next time against Tyson.” No prizes for guessing where that would take place,
Just as Usyk licked his lips at ringside, the Ukrainian war emblem will have a say in this agenda. He went to the limit by saying, “I want Fury soon.” I would be very happy to fight him on December 23rd. I’m ready. Really ready.’
Concerns about Fury’s future swirled among the desert stars in the early hours of Sunday morning
Who could blame him? Concerns about Fury’s future swirled among the desert stars in the early hours of Sunday morning. Was he complacent about Ngannou’s lack of boxing experience? Was he exhausted from losing 26 pounds of those famous love handles in just eight weeks? Are there any real signs of deterioration in your 30s?
Warren said: “Some fighters get old overnight, but I don’t think that’s the case with Tyson.” It wasn’t so much that he took Ngannou for granted, but that he was surprised that he was in an unusual position Style he couldn’t prepare for, boxed so well. He does the weight loss every time, but
I think the fact that he was out of the ring for so long this time had the biggest impact. Give him a break.’
Fury and Usyk will compete to unify the heavyweight division after an agreement was finally signed
Fury was the one who suffered the most on that sultry night in Saudi Arabia, not Ngannou
It would be rude not to. Fury suffered the most that humid night. Not Ngannou, who was the first to admit: “I’m happy with my performance, but I know I fell just short.”
He did this, with one judge scoring the ten rounds 95-94 for him and a second scoring the same margin for Fury. The third set matched my card and was 96-93 for Fury.
“Corruption,” some shouted reflexively. There is no shady decision here. Ring skill, experience, a left and the occasional right, and some fierce punches of his own, which the powerful Ngannou endured better than that perfect left hook in the third round, were the factors that kept the points rolling. Even with those damned hitting stats that were in Fury’s favor.
Usyk certainly wishes this had been his Fury night. But he will know that the Gypsy King is not dead. Not yet. And that, despite all his contradictions, he could well be resurrected.