Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou are set for a blockbuster boxing matchup in Saudi Arabia, according to multiple reports. The battle between the heavyweight stars has been rumored for months, but deals have now been signed for the duo to collide later this year.
Background to the Mega-Fight
Joshua and Ngannou have been on a collision course ever since the latter left the UFC as heavyweight champion last year. ‘The Predator’ was unhappy with his pay and contract terms in the UFC and decided to try his hand at boxing instead.
The former MMA star has long held ambitions of crossing over into boxing and sees it as more financially rewarding. Meanwhile, Joshua is looking to rebuild after consecutive losses to Oleksandr Usyk. ‘AJ’ had his sights set on a unification fight with Tyson Fury but that failed to materialize. Instead, a left-field opportunity has presented itself in the form of Ngannou.
Joshua holds the physical advantages heading into the contest. He is taller, has a longer reach, and more experience as a professional boxer. However, Ngannou possesses frightening one-punch knockout power. Even with padded gloves, he has the ability to end the fight with a single shot.
This unique matchup pits the nuances of boxing against raw punching power. It promises to be an intriguing style clash that has captured the imagination of fight fans worldwide.
|Pro Boxing Record
|24-3, 22 KOs
|2012 Olympic Gold Medalist
|Former UFC Champion
Fight Date and Location
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, revealed that March 2024 has been targeted for the fight during an interview. The contest will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia after both men signed contracts recently.
Saudi Arabia has hosted several high-profile boxing events in recent years, including Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. The nation invests heavily to attract major sporting spectacles through its Saudi Vision 2030 initiative.
The fight will be held outdoors, taking advantage of the cooler night-time temperatures in the Middle Eastern kingdom. The venue is still to be confirmed but a custom-built outdoor stadium similar to Joshua vs Ruiz II is expected.
Joshua’s Manager Not Convinced
Freddie Cunningham, Anthony Joshua’s manager, has expressed doubts over whether the Ngannou fight should go ahead. He feels that it should not be sanctioned by any reputable boxing commission because of the mismatch in experience.
Cunningham believes that Ngannou’s management have picked Joshua believing he is damaged goods after the losses to Usyk. In his opinion, Francis lacks the skills to be competitive over 10 or 12 rounds. He has urged the sanctioning bodies and Joshua’s team to reconsider the bout.
“This fight should not be sanctioned by any commission. Francis is not skilled enough to fight 12 rounds, he clearly has power but it’s a mismatch” – Freddie Cunningham
Eddie Hearn dismissed these concerns stating that Joshua knows what he is doing in taking the fight. Ngannou has been sparring top heavyweights like Tyson Fury in preparation for his boxing debut.
What’s Next for the Winner?
If Joshua gets the win as expected, it sets up several lucrative options going forward. A unification bout with WBC champion Tyson Fury would be the priority. That all-British showdown has been in the making for years but has always eluded fans. Alternatively, a title shot against Oleksandr Usyk for the WBA, IBF and WBO belts could also be targeted.
For Ngannou, defeating Joshua propels him instantly to stardom in the boxing world. As the current UFC champion, he would be in a unique position spanning both sports. Massive paydays would await against the likes of Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz Jr, and Dillian Whyte. He could pick and choose whichever path he wants to go down next.
The Fight Breakdown
The boxer vs puncher dynamic will be fascinating to watch unfold. Joshua is the younger man and will look to use his advantages in height and reach to dictate with his jab. He possesses enough power to gain Ngannou’s respect but doesn’t have one-punch knockout ability.
Expect AJ to box cautiously behind his jab early on. He will be wary of walking onto one of those sledgehammer blows from The Predator. As the fight progresses, Joshua will look to invest more into his combinations trying to wear Ngannou down.
For Francis, the strategy is simple – stalk Joshua and back him up while trying to land bombs. He hit pads so hard in the UFC that coaches had to wear shin guards. Now with 10 oz gloves, almost any clean shot spells trouble for Joshua’s chin which has been cracked before.
Ngannou will come out aggressively from the first bell and back AJ up. He knows his best chance is to land an early highlight-reel finish just as he did many times in the UFC. If Joshua can weather the early onslaught, his superior gas tank should allow him to take over down the stretch.
This unique crossover fight promises to be box office gold with both men bringing big fan bases. The powerful Ngannou remains dangerous but Joshua will enter as a moderate betting favorite. Expect an intense action fight ending in dramatic fashion one way or another.
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