Thursday, March 7, 2024

Will Ngannou Continue To Turn Heads Against Joshua?

In October of last year in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, former UFC World Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou shocked many in the Boxing world when in the latest novelty event featuring Mixed Martial Arts fighters stepping into the Boxing ring to face a star of the sweet science, he not only decked undefeated two-time Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury with a left hook in the third round of the scheduled ten round bout, but, despite coming out on the losing end of a controversial split decision, emerged as the winner in the view of many where, Fury, the current WBC world champion in the Heavyweight division put in a lackluster performance against a fighter with no previous professional Boxing experience. When one considers that the bout between Ngannou and Fury was thought to be at minimum a curiosity and at most was expected to be a mismatch due to the difference in experience between Fury one of two current world champions in the Heavyweight division, and Ngannou, who recently parted ways with the UFC and was never defeated for his world title in the sport of MMA, Ngannou’s performance was one that certainly turned heads. Not only was it an unexpected performance in the eyes of many, but it was impressive to such degree that it brought Ngannou’s future into question as in whether he would continue to compete in Boxing, or if he would return to MMA where he had recently signed a multi-fight deal with the Professional Fighters League (PFL) promotion.

It was not just that he scored a knockdown of a current Heavyweight world champion, but it was also the fact that he had Fury missing wildly throughout the fight, unable to keep his balance, and hurt periodically after the knockdown, which gave the impression that Ngannou may indeed have a future as a Heavyweight boxer. While this observer felt that Ngannou deserved the decision against Fury, who appeared to clearly take him lightly, I came away from that fight openly wondering when Ngannou would enter the Boxing ring again as well as calling for a rematch with Fury, who had a scheduled bout with undefeated unified WBO/IBF/WBA/IBO world champion Oleksandr Usyk for what will be the Undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world prior to the bout with Ngannou, a fight that still has yet to take place as of this writing.

Although the fact that the fight between Fury and Usyk was signed prior to his non-title bout against Ngannou taking place left the impression of some that perhaps the scoring of the bout was perhaps influenced with the knowledge of that undisputed championship fight being in the pipeline, and perhaps not wanting to give a victory, which appeared clear, to a fighter with no experience over a current Heavyweight world champion, Ngannou still emerged looking as though he might have a bright future as a boxer. It was not long before Ngannou’s next potential opponent was being discussed when it became clear that Fury was going towards at least in theory, a showdown with Usyk. Enter Anthony Joshua.

Joshua, a former two-time Heavyweight world champion and current top contender will be the next to test Ngannou’s Boxing skills when the two meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in a bout that can be seen globally on DAZN Pay-Per-View. This fight seems as though it may be more favorable to Ngannou at least in terms of style. Joshua is known for his punching power and likes to come forward compared to Fury, who is a fighter with an awkward Boxing style with an emphasis on counter punching. Joshua has fought three times since losing a bid to become a three-time world champion in a rematch with Oleksandr Usyk in August 2022. Of those three bouts, Joshua has scored knockouts in two of them including a stoppage of Otto Wallin in December of last year.

While much like Ngannou’s bout with Fury, there remains a curiosity, this fight may be viewed as more legitimate because now there is at least some evidence as to what Francis Ngannou can do in the Boxing ring. What may be different this time is Joshua has been more active than Fury had been prior to when he fought Ngannou and Joshua has always been a well conditioned fighter, whereas Fury has gone through periods where he has looked good, but has also allowed his weight to balloon where his performances have not been as impressive as when he appears to be in shape. Whether or not Joshua’s activity will make a difference going into this fight remains to be seen. 

What one should keep in mind as this fight approaches is a fight can end at any point with one punch and this especially holds true for the Heavyweight division. Despite being more experienced than his opponent, Anthony Joshua has been caught before and knocked down in his career as well as suffering one knockout loss at the hands of Andy Ruiz, when Joshua’s first reign as a world champion ended in June 2019. Although we do not know what will happen if Francis Ngannou gets hurt in a Boxing ring as of yet, he did show in his fight against Fury that his punching power, regarded as among the best in MMA, did carry over to Boxing and it will be interesting to see if he will be able to land solidly on Joshua, who is also a former Olympic Gold medalist. 

While it’s been more than a decade since Joshua won Olympic Gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics, the fact that he does have an Olympic background underscores the experience disadvantage Ngannou faces here in addition to Joshua’s professional accolades. The former two-time Heavyweight world champion, also having seen what Ngannou can do, will likely not be approaching this fight with a kid gloves mindset. Joshua is also taking a significant risk here in this fight in terms of his standing currently in hoping to secure another opportunity to become world champion. A loss to Francis Ngannou will likely not be a career ender for Joshua, but it will likely remove him from potentially being in line to fight for a world title in the near future. A win for Ngannou will catapult him into a list of contenders and will likely cement that his future may be in the Boxing ring and not in MMA.

A fight that is a curiosity, but one with potentially high stakes for both fighters. There truly is nothing like a Heavyweight fight where both fighters are capable of ending matters at any time with either hand. If this turns out to be as competitive as Fury-Ngannou turned out to be, it will no longer be a curiosity, it will be simply who is the better fighter.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Joshua vs. Ngannou takes place on Friday, March 8th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The fight as well as its full undercard can be seen globally on DAZN Pay-Per-View for $38.99 beginning at 11AM ET/8AM PT. For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, availability around the world, local start times in your area, to subscribe and order this special pay-per-view event please visit:

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