Former UFC heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou denied astonishing upset win in non-title clash vs Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury took on former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in a 10-round non-title bout in Riyadh; Ngannou was having his first professional boxing contest yet knocked down Fury in the third round - only to be denied victory as Fury escaped with a contentious split-decision win.

Tyson Fury escaped from Francis Ngannou with a contentious split-decision victory after their 10-round non-title bout in Saudi Arabia.

Despite being knocked down in the third round, Fury took the result 96-93 and 95-94 on two of the judges' cards. The other judge had it 95-94 for Ngannou.

Fury is the WBC champion and widely regarded as the leading heavyweight in the sport. He is unbeaten as a professional, while Ngannou, in contrast, was boxing as a pro for the first time in this scheduled 10-rounder.

But the mixed martial arts star pushed him desperately close. After blasting Fury over with a tremendous left hook in the third, Ngannou exerted impressive control in many of the subsequent rounds, only for Fury to emerge with the narrow and controversial split-decision win.

Fury had to acknowledge: "That definitely wasn't in the script."

Ngannou almost engineered the most remarkable upset the heavyweight division, indeed the entire sport of boxing, has ever seen.

It did not start off that way.

At the opening bell Fury moved straight out to the centre of the ring to meet him. He touched Ngannou with a jab to the body before sticking his right cross into the head.

Ngannou lunged in, only for Fury to tie him up in a clinch.

Fury jabbed Ngannou back and, looking flat-footed early on, Ngannou could not catch him with his own lead.

The MMA star did bound back from the Briton's one-two. But Fury connected with a second, hard straight left-right.

Fury was looking assured and even when Ngannou slugged Fury with a right, he shrugged it off and stuck out his tongue at the end of the round.

But concern would soon creep into his work. The two collided and, looking worried, Fury dabbed at a graze on his forehead.

His problems got worse, shockingly so in the third round.

Ngannou upended Fury, and the world's expectations, when he smashed the WBC champion off his feet with a left hook.

Fury was hurt, significantly so, and took his time to rise.

That allowed Ngannou's confidence to blossom. He came on confidently in the fourth round and knocked Fury into the ropes.

Fury stirred himself and smacked a solid one-two fully in Ngannou in the next round. But the former UFC fighter was withstanding those big hits.

Not only that, but he was coming back with his own.

Ngannou was not rushing himself. He was waiting for Fury to attack and thudding counter-punches into him.

Fury needed to up the pace, but he stayed away, keeping himself at range and boxing at a sedate pace, tapping in the odd jab, switching stances as he searched for a way through but failed to find it.

The remaining rounds leaked away from him, although the judges, contentiously, decided he had just edged it.

What next

Ngannou has a future in boxing and would like a rematch with Fury: "We can run it back again and I'm sure I'm going to get better.

"I know I came up short," he said, but added: "Now I know I can do this."

"Get ready," he declared. "The wolf is in the house. I'm going to bite some sheep."

Fury, however, has turned his attention to the undisputed heavyweight championship clash with Oleksandr Usyk.

The two faced off in the ring in the immediate aftermath of the fight.

"Let's go," Fury said.

Usyk said just the same. "Let's go," he replied. "I'm going to be fighting him, amazing."

Fury declared: "Let's go now if you want.

"It'll be our next fight guaranteed."

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