Who’s Next For Anthony Joshua After Brutal KO Win Over Francis Ngannou?

March 9, 2024
1 month
Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua continued on his path to becoming a three-time heavyweight world champion with a destructive second-round knockout of Francis Ngannou on Friday night in Saudi Arabia.

Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion competing in just his second professional boxing bout, had no answer to Joshua’s ferocious power. The Cameroonian was dropped in the first round and again in the second before Joshua knocked him out cold.

It was a stark difference from Ngannou’s boxing debut in October, when he sent lineal champion Tyson Fury to the canvas in the third round on the way to a split decision defeat.

The big question now for Joshua (28-3-0 25 KO) is what, or more specifically who, is next? Here are a few options.

Joshua Vs Hrgovic

The fight that seems to make the most sense in terms of fighter availability, especially if there’s a world title up for grabs. Filip Hrgovic (17-0-0 14 KO) is the mandatory challenger for the IBF belt, which is expected to become vacant after current holder Oleksandr Usyk fights Tyson Fury on May 18 for the undisputed championship.

With Usyk and Fury contracted for a rematch in October, the IBF is expected to strip whoever holds the title after the first fight for not fulfilling his mandatory duties. That would mean Hrgovic and Joshua – ranked third by the IBF – will be given the opportunity to fight for the title.

Hrgovic has not fought since his embarrassingly easy first-round knockout of Mark De Mori in December, and the Croatian appears to be the most viable option for AJ. It would also represent an ideal chance for the British fighter to become a three-time champion.

Whyte Rematch

Joshua’s rematch with Dillian Whyte in August last year was just one week away when Whyte tested positive for a banned substance, leading AJ to fight Robert Helenius instead. Whyte (29-3-0 19 KO) has since been cleared due to evidence of a contaminated supplement, and the ‘Body Snatcher’ will make his return against Christian Hammer on March 17 in Ireland.

Assuming Whyte comes through that fight – which he should comfortably even after 16 months of inactivity – then it could reopen the door for the rematch with Joshua.

Speaking after his win over Ngannou, AJ said he is still interested in the rematch, while Whyte has made it his priority now that he’s been cleared to fight again.

Their first fight took place early in their respective careers, with Joshua – then the British and Commonwealth champion – knocking out Whyte in the sixth round of an entertaining bout.

Parker Rematch

Joshua, who is on a run of four straight wins, is not the only heavyweight to revive his career from recent setbacks; Joseph Parker (35-3-0 23 KO) has won his last five fights since a stoppage defeat to Joe Joyce in September 2022, and on Friday in the co-main event, beat Zhilei Zhang via majority decision to become the WBO interim champion.

With Parker once again operating near the top of the heavyweight division, a rematch against the New Zealander could be a more likely possibility than it might have been a few years ago. Joshua outpointed Parker in their first fight in March 2018 to become a unified champion.

The major obstacle in this fight happening next is the rematch clause Zhang had in the contract, and after such a close fight – where the Chinese boxer put Parker down twice – he is sure to want to activate the clause.

Tyson Fury (Finally)

It’s the fight the whole boxing world has been desperate to see for several years, and the one promoter Eddie Hearn called for immediately after Joshua’s win against Ngannou. However, unless there is an unexpected development, any fight between AJ and WBC champion Fury will have to wait for at least another year.

Fury is signed on to fight Usyk in May and again in October, meaning any potential fight with Joshua would not happen until March 2025 at the earliest. Plenty can happen between now and then, and with Saudi Arabia’s interest in the heavyweight division, the landscape could look very different in the next 12 months. That said, there will always be a huge demand for Joshua vs Fury.