Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou have officially agreed to a 10-round heavyweight boxing match in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia later this year, according to multiple reports. The blockbuster crossover fight between one of boxing’s biggest stars and the former UFC heavyweight champion has the combat sports world buzzing.
Background of the Super Fight
Rumors of a boxing match between British superstar Anthony Joshua and Cameroonian-French MMA fighter Francis Ngannou have swirled for years. Ngannou has made it no secret that boxing was his original combat sport before transitioning to MMA, where he captured the UFC heavyweight title in 2021.
Joshua, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, currently holds three of the four major world heavyweight boxing titles. After losing his belts to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021, Joshua is looking to regain his status as the undisputed king of the division.
A fight between two superstar big men seemed inevitable, and talks progressed rapidly over the last several months. Ngannou became a free agent after completing his UFC contract on December 31st, clearing the way for this blockbuster matchup.
Breaking News of Fight Agreement
The biggest indicator that this matchup was imminent came from Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, who tweeted “ngannou time” on January 5th. Later that day, multiple reputable boxing reporters confirmed that contracts had been signed.
Ngannou himself tweeted a video indicating the fight was made, stating “Anthony Joshua, I’m coming for you!”
The date and venue were announced soon after. The fight will take place in Riyadh, likely in late March or early April. Joshua has history in Saudi Arabia – he reclaimed his heavyweight titles there by defeating Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019.
With the contracts signed and details emerging, the boxing world erupted at the news. Social media exploded with reactions, as the fight promises to capture the attention of both boxing and MMA audiences globally.
According to Eddie Hearn, the bout is set for 10 rounds in the heavyweight division. With no titles on the line, it will likely be fought at a 210-220 pound catchweight. This benefits the lighter Ngannou, who normally cuts weight to make the UFC 266-pound limit.
The ruleset is still being finalized but expected to follow traditional boxing guidelines. Ngannou’s MMA experience brings kicking and takedowns into play, but neither fighter indicated interest in crossover rules.
Purse split details have not emerged, but both men are expected to be paid handsomely. Joshua’s last fight earned him $85 million, while Ngannou’s base UFC deal paid just $600k/fight. This clash should massively boost Ngannou’s earnings.
Reaction From the Combat Sports World
The announcement sparked excitement but also skepticism across both boxing and MMA.
For boxing media and fans, intrigue surrounds how Ngannou’s explosive power will translate. His highlight-reel MMA knockouts built a reputation as the biggest puncher in the game. But boxing is a different sport requiring more tools and technique.
However, Ngannou has been open about his boxing training for years. Respected coaches like Dewey Cooper and Justin Fortune have praised his ability. Combined with his otherworldly athleticism, he could pose problems for Joshua.
On the other hand, MMA pundits point to Joshua’s massive edge in experience. His refined skills, footwork, combinations, defense, and ring IQ give him an advantage that some consider nearly insurmountable for an MMA crossover star.
Regardless of any skepticism, the fight features two wildly popular heavyweights in their prime with contrasting backgrounds. Intrigue is palpable for this attraction showdown.
Looking ahead, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn named Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte, and Oleksandr Usyk as potential next opponents if Joshua beats Ngannou. Joshua likely needs to defeat Usyk again to have any shot of reclaiming his unified champion status.
For Ngannou, bigger boxing matchups could emerge if he shocks the world against Joshua. These could include Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, or a rematch with Joshua. An return to MMA also remains possible, with Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic as options.
Of course, the 38-year old Ngannou remains a sizable underdog against Joshua, who opened as a -600 betting favorite. But Ngannou built his career on defying expectations, and a victory would rank among the most shocking results in recent memory.
In the meantime, the combat sports world will eagerly await this violent, high-stakes heavyweight showdown between two of the most fearsome fighters on the planet.
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