Anthony Joshua: Francis Ngannou Fight ‘The Biggest Challenge Of My Life’

February 19, 2024
3 months
Image of Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou Faceoff

Anthony Joshua has described his upcoming bout with Francis Ngannou as “the biggest challenge of my life” having previously dismissed a potential showdown with the MMA star as a “gimmick”.

Two-time heavyweight world champion Joshua and Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion, are set to meet in the ring on March 8 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Joshua was initially expected to face Deontay Wilder in his next fight but the former WBC belt holder’s one-sided defeat to Joseph Parker in December ruined those plans. With Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk committed to fighting for the undisputed title, and therefore no belts available to contest for the next few months, Joshua turned to Ngannou.

The British fighter had previously shown no interest in a bout with the Ngannou, but his impressive boxing debut against lineal Fury last October has quickly changed perceptions. The Cameroonian floored the WBC and lineal champion in the third round and narrowly lost on a split decision. Ngannou is now ranked in the top 10 by the WBC.

“They spoke about this fight before and I said ‘no, it’s a gimmick fight, it’s not something that I think is right — crossing over when I’m still chasing heavyweight glory,’” Joshua said in his Face Off episode with Ngannou for DAZN. “And then I think when they saw what happened with his last fight, the situation with Wilder, this opportunity presented itself. I never turned down a challenge and I’m looking forward to it. It’s the biggest challenge of my life.”

Ngannou responded, somewhat sarcastically, by claiming it’s “still a gimmick fight”. The 37-year-old may have been a dominant force in the UFC but he was given no chance against Fury in his first ever professional boxing fight. That performance opened the door to more high-profile and lucrative boxing bouts, and Ngannou admitted he is shocked that his first two bouts are against the best in the business.

“It’s still a gimmick fight, the fight is a gimmick. I think it’s very funny because I think of a gimmick fight like … this is a crossover,” he said. “It’s my second pro fight. In my first two boxing matches, I am taking on two of the top three heavyweight boxers of this generation. It’s a good challenge and it’s very interesting.”

Ngannou is famous for his ferocious knockout power and he showed he can carry that into the boxing ring with his stunning knockdown of Fury. The Gypsy King had previously been on the receiving end of the one of the hardest punchers in boxing history when he was sent to the canvas three times over two fights by a prime Wilder.

And Ngannou is convinced that had Joshua taken the punch he floored Fury with, he would not have got back up.

“Yeah, I have a doubt about that,” he said. “Tyson showed that he’s very resilient. I saw him come back from a knockdown that you wouldn’t believe. So I think he’s probably one of the most resistant person out there, and that’s not a disrespect to AJ. I don’t believe that AJ would take what Tyson did.”