Part of what makes sport what it is,is the potential for a big upset. Whether it’s an underdog winning a premier league match or a shock winner of a gold medal in an olympic event, some of the most memorable sporting moments involve predicted outcomes, or sure things, being turned on their head. If not for a somewhat controversial judging decision recently we may have had an underdog story for the ages when former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou recently took on undefeated heavyweight boxing champions Tyson Fury at a recent extravegent Saudi fight night event.
Billed as ‘Battle of the Baddest’ beforehand many saw this as little more than a step up from the recent trend of Youtuber match ups, that seemed intended to excite the bank accounts of those taking part far more than the general public (see the recent Tommy Fury vs KSI fight for example). Sure Ngannou is a very strong and talented MMA fighter but transfering those skills overnight to a whole different sport was seen (to the general public and bookmakers) to be leap too far.
On the night though, boxing and MMA fans were in for a treat as Cameroonian-French Ngannou more than held his own against Brit Tyson Fury. In the first round Fury (who declared to his opponent moments before the fight that he intended to ‘take him to school’) landed some big shots, but Ngannou was relatively unfazed by them, and indeed returned the favour. Come the third round and Ngannou was firmly in his stride, and during an attempt by fury to land a couple of powerful combination shots he caught the ‘Gypsy King’ on the side of the head putting him down on the convas. This certainly wasn’t in the script. Round 4 was impressive for ‘The Predator’ too and in round 8 he also had Fury looking on the back foot once again. Much of the rest of the fight was more even, but many thought Ngannou had done enough.
The judges narrowly decided differently though in a split decision. This is boxing of course and whole books could be written about judges scoring alone. Not to say that this result was a complete injustice, but most would certainly say that there should at least be a rematch. Boxing politics is nothing new, but for his efforts Ngannou walks away with a massively boosted profile, a top ten WBC ranking and a rumoured £8 million (less than Fury’s outrageous £50 million, but still more than he earned during his entire MMA career). Going forward many will be as excited to see Ngannou’s next performance as they will Furys. And I doubt he’ll get caught up in the same boxing politics mindset that plagues both the sport and his contemporaries thinking.