Francis Ngannou's Next Challenge: Can He Conquer Anthony Joshua?

Promoter Eddie Hearn recently announced the epic heavyweight boxing match between two-time world heavyweight boxing champion, Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua, and former undefeated UFC heavyweight champion, Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou. The bout is set for Saturday, March 8th, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and will last an engaging 10 rounds. Announced just two weeks after Joshua's thrilling performance against Otto Wallin and Deontay Wilder's shocking loss to Joseph Parker, has set the combat sports world abuzz.

Not On The Cards but Written in The Stars

Anthony Joshua, who was originally slated to fight Deontay Wilder, now has a new opponent to face after Wilder fell to Joseph Parker. Joshua, fresh off his domination of Otto Wallin in the main event of the Day of Reckoning card in Saudi Arabia, is on a winning streak with three consecutive victories in what has been touted as the rebuild of ‘AJ’s’ fight carrier. Joshua will now square off against Francis Ngannou in an unexpected match, that has fight sport fans the world over excited.

Ngannou, 37, hails from Cameroon and left MMA for boxing in 2023, after rejecting an offer that would have made him the highest-paid heavyweight in UFC history. His boxing debut was against Tyson Fury in Riyadh last year.  Ngannou proved himself a formidable boxer during his split decision loss against Tyson Fury. Despite the defeat, he left a lasting impression, knocking Fury down and landing 59 punches on him. This strong performance earned him the 10th spot in the WBC rankings off the bat, setting a chain of events in motion, leading to a thrilling face-off with Joshua this year.

Eddie Hearn on AJ’s Preparation

Joshua's promoter and Matchroom Boxing head, Eddie Hearn, had originally intended for this epic face-off to unfold in the grandeur of the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, but plans have since shifted.  Hearn, in a recent episode of The MMA Hour, voiced his respect for Ngannou's formidable prowess in the ring, saying, "Francis Ngannou is a very dangerous man, and they'll be training, absolutely, with every ounce in their soul to be victorious.

Despite the threat posed by Ngannou, Hearn remains an unabashed "AJ fanboy," as he put it. He affirmed his belief in Joshua's skills, saying, "I still believe that AJ will show you the levels of boxing in this fight. But listen, I've been wrong before... They realise AJ should win, but Ngannou is for real." This match-up promises to be a spectacle, with Joshua's polished, textbook boxing colliding with Ngannou's raw power and unpredictable striking. The unique blend of these fighters' styles and approaches guarantees that this fight will be a captivating show of strength, skill and strategy.

The Predator and his plans

Speaking on the recent The MMA Hour podcast. "That's when I stepped in," said Ngannou, indicating that he jumped at the opportunity to face Joshua when he got the call following his tweet about the vacant spot, post the Wilder loss to Parker.

Francis Ngannou, known for his explosive power, plans to put Anthony Joshua's chin to the test. Reflecting on Eddie Hearn's comments about him, Ngannou stated, "Eddie is a promoter...That's just what he does." Looking ahead, Ngannou is keen to test Joshua's reputed weak chin, boldly stating, "If AJ takes the punch that Fury took, I don't guarantee that he's standing up. I've heard that he doesn't have a chin. I'm going to find out."

Ngannou, who diligently watched both Joshua and Wilder's fights, commented on Joshua's specifically, "He looked amazing. Respect to him, congratulations to him." Ngannou added, "I think I will have a better response in front of him that will put him not in such a comfortable position," indicating his intention to unleash his destructive power on Joshua.

MMA Fighters Perspective

Former UFC champion Michael Bisping has praised Joshua for his audacity in taking the fight. Despite Joshua having little to gain in such a risky fight, Bisping believes that he deserves respect for facing the challenge. "AJ does deserve a lot of respect here," said Bisping on his "Believe You Me" podcast.

Despite suffering a split decision loss against Tyson Fury five months ago, Ngannou has quickly landed another mega fight. "I think for Francis Ngannou, it's great," Bisping added. Ngannou's fight against Fury answered key questions about his ability to compete with boxers, land a glove, withstand blows, and demonstrate both stamina and power. As the training intensifies, the anticipation for this colossal showdown is mounting.

Teddy Atlas provides a Boxing perspective

Highly respected boxing figure Teddy Atlas recently shared his insights on the anticipated face-off, on The Fight podcast. "Ngannou is a great athlete. He is confident. He has the mental toughness and the belief in himself," Atlas said. This confidence was on full display back in October when Ngannou rocked the boxing world, dropping Tyson Fury and nearly pulling off a stunning upset.

His solid performance against Fury, however, earned him the chance to prove his mettle against Joshua, who is currently enjoying robust form with three wins in 2023. Ngannou's reputation for brutal knockout power, coupled with the prevailing perception of Joshua having a susceptible chin, adds a layer of uncertainty to the fight's outcome. "If he can put his hand on that chin, who knows?" Atlas speculated on his podcast.

So Whats in Store?

With such a high level of unpredictability about this fight, expectations are swirling. However, despite the lingering doubts and the undeniable power of Ngannou, Joshua is still largely considered the favourite in the looming clash. Boxing fans and pundits worldwide eagerly await the matchup, as these two powerhouses step into the ring to test their skills and resolve in what promises to be a monumental encounter.

Regardless of what the future holds, you don’t want to miss this fight. It’s simply tantalising, undefined by possibility and driven by a real need to win. I mean not win to prove anything to anyone, but win because there is no other option. I think if this happens, not matter who wins or loses, both these fighters will exit the ring elevated to a level reserved for real titans of the game. More to Come!

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