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Fury-Ngannou Undercard Results: Wardley Takes Plaudits, Makhmudov In Desperate Need Of Better Opponents, Bakole Beats 42-YO Takam

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RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - OCTOBER 28: Fabio Wardley celebrates victory over David Adeleye (not pictured) after the British, Commonwealth and WBO European Heavyweight Title fight between Fabio Wardley and David Adeleye at Boulevard Hall on October 28, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Fabio Wardley was the standout performer on the undercard of the Fury-Ngannou event, retaining his titles against British rival David Adeleye while both Arslan Makhmudov and Martin Bakole won their respective fights at the Boulevard Hall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 28th.

British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Fabio Wardley (17-0, 16 KO’s) retained his titles and his record with a technical knockout (TKO) win over David Adeleye (12-1, 11 KO’s). Proving to be the better fighter as he claimed in the pre-fight press conference, Wardley now stands at the precipice of world title glory following his victory.

Wardley dictated the fight for the most part, but Adeleye made the fight very much competitive with his jabs which he executed with surprising precision and effectiveness. Both fighters switched between pressuring one another, and while both had bouts of success, Wardley’s greater punch output seems to have been the deciding factor of their match.

David Adeleye’s aggressiveness was not completely neutralized by Fabio Wardley whose defense was not so developed that Adeleye could not touch him. However, it was Wardley’s own aggression that tilted the match in his favor, landing more power punches which kept Adeleye from claiming the lead at any point during the fight.

The seventh round saw Fabio Wardley land two combination hooks in the closing minute of the round on Adeleye who promptly dropped to the ground, suffering the first knockdown of his career. Adeleye came up to beat the count, but with roughly half a minute left, Wardley stepped up his activity and hunted Adeleye down with countless punches which Adeleye had no answer to.

As the round closed and Adeleye was getting gruesomely battered by Wardley, the referee stepped in to stop the fight, and Wardley was announced the winner thereafter by stoppage. The match brought a close to the beef that had ensued between the two fighters in the build-up to their fight during the introductory press conference of the event.

David Adeleye also did not help matters further for himself after hitting the referee with a mild body shot after his stoppage loss, apparently done so in frustration and protest.

Wardley is now in a similar position as many other British heavyweights before him, being within range of being considered a legitimate world title challenger and needing several more fights against other contenders to land himself a title opportunity in the near future.

Russian heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov (18-0, 17 KO’s) had a statement victory over opponent Junior Anthony Wright (20-5-1, 17 KO’s), resulting in a first-round knockout (KO). Dominating from the start, Makhmudov dropped Wright with a powerful right hook in the latter portion of the first minute of the first round.

Vulnerable from the punch, Makhmudov did not spare any time to close the fight and continued his assault on Wright, hitting him cleanly several times before again dropping him with his right hand. Though Wright did not fall, the referee immediately stepped in to stop the fight, deeming Wright no longer had the faculties to continue. Makhmudov, like Wardley, won by TKO as a result.

Makhmudov’s victory was noteworthy, but there is no doubt that he should be set upon a path to fight better opponents. With the heavyweight division not lacking any talent, it would only seem natural for Makhmudov to be set on a path of contention by his promoter, Top Rank, but as of yet the Russians seems to struggle to find fights that can catapult him into a title fight. Though still untested, potential seems to swirl around Makhmudov and a step-up in competition seems to be sorely needed at this point of his career.

Another heavyweight, Martin Bakole (20-1, 15 KO’s) fought on the card against 42-year old renowned French veteran Carlos Takam (40-8-1, 28 KO’s). Bakole won in the fourth round by stoppage, tagging Takam with several powerful right hands which did not manage to drop Takam but did force the referee to interfere and stop the fight for Takam’s safety.

It was a solid victory by Bakole, but like Makhmudov, not a fight that tested him properly―especially given the wear and tear on Carlos Takam at his current 42 years of age.

The card was full of heavyweights on the night, with Australian former world champion Joseph Parker (33-3, 23 KO’s) also featuring on the card against Canadian heavyweight Simon Kean (23-2, 22 KO’s). Parker showed his experience on the night, beating Kean to the point he was knocked out cold in just the third round of their fight.

It was not an unexpected win given Parker’s pedigree, but the performance of all aforementioned three heavyweights does not discount the fact that they would be better off facing each other at some point in time. All three heavyweights are currently contenders within the division, ranked in the top 10 across the various four main sanctioning bodies of boxing, and all seem to be in need to challenge against better opponents.

For some reason, despite all fighting on the same card, either of these three fighters facing each other has apparently not been considered a wise move by their promoters, which only serves to derail their career and prevent them from having world title opportunities.

Lastly, British heavyweight prospect Moses Itauma (6-0, 4 KO’s) allowed the public to enjoy his boxing ability as he coursed to a stoppage victory over Istvan Bernath (10-2, 8 KO’s) in the first round.

Itauma’s career seems to be progressing as expected with him fighting journeymen on a consistent since making his pro debut in January of this year. However, there must come a time where he must be tested thoroughly, and 2024 will likely be the year that we can witness Moses Itauma step up in his level of opponents against experienced veterans, or even prospects that like him are looking to contend or at least be considered as contenders.

The undercard of Fury-Ngannou proved to be surprisingly entertaining given the performances, with all the fights excepting the main event ending in either stoppage or knockout victories. The undercard preceded the main event between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou, covered in the following article.