PARIS (Reuters) – France’s Ciryl Gane pulled off an electrifying knockout win over Australian Tai Tuivasa in front of a home crowd at the Accor Arena on the banks of the River Seine in the promotion’s first major event in the country since the sport was legalised there in 2020.
Spurred on by a lusty first-round rendition of “La Marseillaise”, the French national anthem, the two heavyweights put on a barn-burner of a fight in the main event that made the long wait for the sport’s regulation worth it for the French fans.
Australian Tuivasa sent Gane crashing to the canvas with a sledgehammer right hand in the second round, but Gane roared back with a series of brutal blows to the body that almost ended the fight.
Two minutes into the third Gane stunned Tuivasa with a kick to the head, and though the teak-tough Aussie initially refused to go down, Gane piled on the pressure.
A right uppercut marked the beginning of the end, and Gane stalked his man down, landing thunderous blows with both hands to secure the KO with 37 seconds left in the frame.
“If anyone had any doubts about how good the French crowd are, there are no more doubts anymore,” Gane said before thanking them repeatedly and calling for a title shot.
In the co-main event, former middleweight title-holder Robert Whittaker put on a slick striking performance to out-point Marvin Vettori that may put him in contention for another shot at the belt, despite losing a title fight to current champion Israel Adesanya back in February.
With the red, white and blue of the French flag projected on the octagon floor between bouts, the six-fight main card got off to a slow start for the energetic home fans as English fighter Nathaniel Wood defeated Frenchman Charles Jourdain by unanimous decision.
Parisian William Gomis soon gave them something to cheer, as he escaped a dangerous late submission attempt from Jarno Errens before winning on the judges’ scorecards.
“I heard the crowd and I thought no, I can’t give up now –I’d rather die in here than give up. I’m gonna die rather than give up,” a jubilant Gomis said in a post-fight interview as the fans roared their approval.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Toby Davis)