LeBron James and Damian Lillard shocked at Tyson Fury-Francis Ngannou decision

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read

LeBron James and Damian Lillard took their nights off from the NBA schedule to take in another sport, and they wound up criticizing the result of a boxing match between heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and mixed martial arts star Francis Ngannou on Saturday.

Despite a third-round knockdown of the undefeated champion, Ngannou lost a split decision, a result James and Lillard disputed. Two judges’ cards gave Fury a 96-93, 95-94 edge, with one judge scoring the bout 95-94 for Ngannou.

Though there was no title belt on the line, anticipation was very high for the battle between the two heralded pugilists. No one really knew what to expect from Ngannou, a former UFC heavyweight champion, in a full-fledged boxing match against a seasoned opponent. But he surprised observers — and Fury himself — by knocking him down with a left hook in the third round. The fight then turned out to be much more competitive and exciting than many expected.

James and Lillard are NBA heavyweights in their own rights and are off to good starts to the 2023-24 NBA season.

James swatted aside thoughts of having his workload limited by playing the entire fourth quarter and pushing the Lakers to a 100-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday. It followed a season-opening loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Lillard landed the biggest blows in his much-anticipated debut with the Milwaukee Bucks against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. As part of his game-high 39 points, the All-Star scored the Bucks’ final 11 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:13 remaining that gave Milwaukee a five-point lead on the way to a 118-117 victory.

Lillard was the primary focus of the NBA offseason after he requested a trade from his longtime team, the Portland Trail Blazers. It was widely thought that he would wind up with the Miami Heat, but the 33-year-old instead landed with the Bucks to team with fellow superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The deal significantly changed the NBA landscape and pushed the Bucks among the top favorites for the 2023-24 championship. Perhaps there is a heavyweight matchup between James and Lillard brewing in the NBA Finals somewhere down the road.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.