WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury claimed a controversial split decision victory over former UFC fighter Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia.
Ngannou, 37, put Fury on the canvas in round three after connecting with a left hook.
But while one judge scored it 95-94 in favour of Ngannou, two gave it to Fury at 96-93 and 95-94.
Fury’s WBC heavyweight belt was not on the line.
“That definitely wasn’t in the script,” Fury told TNT Sports.
“I got caught round the back of the head [for the knockdown]. I wasn’t hurt. I got up and got back to my boxing.
“He’s an awkward man and a good puncher and I respect him a lot. He’s given me one of my toughest fights of the last 10 years.”
Ngannou, making his professional boxing debut, came out tentatively behind the jab in the opening round and Fury seemed content with a slow start as he looked to get a read on his opponent.
Fury got a first taste of Ngannou’s power in round two, though, as a cut opened on the forehead of the Gypsy King when he ate a left hook.
Fury looked ill-prepared and sluggish and hit the canvas in round three when he was found behind the right ear with that same punch.
Perhaps still feeling the impact of that shot, he struggled to find his rhythm until the fifth round when he caught Ngannou with a straight one-two combination.
After a brief pushback from Fury when he started to box at range and have success with his jab, Ngannou again began to land some heavy punches in the latter rounds.
It seemed the scorecards were against Fury and he appeared desperate when lunging forward in the seventh, missing Ngannou and falling to his knees – deemed a slip rather than a knockdown.
Ngannou boxed very smartly when he was able to close the distance, using his MMA skills to clinch and land shots to the body and head.
Fury’s face carried the damage as the final bell rang and Ngannou’s corner held his arms up high in the expectation that he was on the verge of pulling off the biggest shock in boxing.
But the scorecards controversially fell in favour of the seasoned boxer, who won the commemorative ‘Riyadh champion’ belt and extended his unbeaten record to 35 – winning 34 and drawing one.
“My training camp was only three and a half months and I came into this with an injury,” Ngannou said. “But I don’t want to give excuses. I will look at what I can do next to improve my game to come back even better.
“Now I know I can do this, get ready. The wolf is in the house.”
Fury’s victory means a blockbuster bout with fellow heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk – who holds the WBA, WBO, and IBF titles – which was agreed earlier this month, remains on the horizon.
An undisputed heavyweight contest, the first in the four-belt era, has been mooted for 23 December, but a cut and bruised Fury might struggle to recover so quickly.