Not even Mike Tyson could foresee the enormous success Francis Ngannou had on Saturday night in an ultimately losing endeavor.
Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion, stunned viewers over the weekend when he dropped WBC heavyweight titlist Tyson Fury in the third round of their 10-round heavyweight affair that many critics had been referring to as a woeful mismatch. It was, moreover, Ngannou’s debut in professional boxing.
While Fury ended up winning on points, the fight was hardly a landslide in his favor and the overall competitiveness was reflected in the judges’ scorecards: One judge had Ngannou winning 95-94, but two others had it 95-94 and 96-93 for Fury.
Many have characterized Ngannou’s loss as a victory, given the seemingly insurmountable odds pundits had accorded him leading up to the fight.
Even Tyson, the legendary heavyweight who was brought into Ngannou’s corner as a coach, was awestruck by what Ngannou managed to accomplish.
“First of all it was a team effort, with [head coach] Dewey [Cooper], we can’t take nothing away from them,” Tyson told SecondsOut.com. “Like I said, it was a team effort and we put our heads and hearts together and we got a performance that even we didn’t anticipate.”
Tyson, however, refrained from going so far as to claim that Ngannou deserved to win.
“Hey, listen, right, it was a close fight and he had a great night with the greatest fighter ever,” Tyson said.
“Sky’s the limit for him,” Tyson said of Ngannou. “Anything, movies, people have already called me for his life story and everything.”
Ngannou insisted after the fight that he believed he won the fight and has called for a rematch.
Fury, however, is scheduled to take on WBO, WBA, IBF heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed heavyweight championship, but it is not clear if that fight will take place on Dec. 23, as initially reported, or in January or beyond.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.