Home Boxing News Anthony Joshua explains why Francis Ngannou fight is more than just a...

Anthony Joshua explains why Francis Ngannou fight is more than just a gimmick

Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou. Photo credit: Sky Sports

Former two-time unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua 27-3 (24) has admitted he wasn’t initially keen on a bout against former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou 0-1 as he saw it as a gimmick fight.

But now the pair will share a ring at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 8.

The matchup was originally flagged with Joshua after the 34-year-old Brit defeated Jermaine Franklin on points in April last year.

“I spoke to AJ about the fight. He likes it and he gets it, but he’s very focused on his boxing career at the moment. He doesn’t want to derail that to do something a little bit gimmicky,” Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn told The Mac Life at the time.

But after seeing Cameroonian Ngannou, 37, go within a whisker of defeating reigning WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury 34-0-1 (24) in his boxing debut last October, and watching potential opponent Deontay Wilder 43-3-1 (42) get torched by Joseph Parker 34-3 (23) in December, Joshua changed his tune.

“That was my route, to stick in boxing,” Joshua said. “They spoke about this fight before and I said ‘Nah, it’s a gimmick fight.’ It’s not something that I think is right. Crossing over when I am still chasing heavyweight glory.

“When they saw what happened with his last fight and the situation with Deontay Wilder, this opportunity presented itself. I have never turned down a challenge and I’m looking forward to it. It’s the biggest challenge of my life.”

Ngannou shocked many observers with his boxing ability against Fury, even knocking down the 35-year-old Brit with a left hook in the third round.

Ngannou doesn’t think Joshua will be able to stand up to that kind of power.

“Yeah, I have a doubt about that,” he said on DAZN. “Tyson showed that he’s very resilient. I saw him come back from knockdowns like you wouldn’t believe.

“So I think he’s probably one of the most resistant people out there and that’s not a disrespect to AJ.

“I don’t believe that AJ would take what Tyson did.

“Even going into the fight [against Fury], I knew that even if I knocked him down, I would not get excited.

“That would not mean anything because he always comes back.”

Joshua responded: “Who hasn’t knocked Tyson down? So many people have knocked Tyson down.

“I researched Ngannou and I’ve watched Tyson Fury box a number of times. People claim he’s the greatest of many, many generations, but I think if I box Tyson Fury, a lot of similarities will happen in the fight.

“So I’m not surprised at all, in terms of his style, who Fury is. It’s just a boxing match. Well done to both of them, they put on an entertaining fight. But that’s in the past now.”

This week Hearn said Joshua was in phenomenal shape for the bout.

“He looks great,” the Matchroom Boxing boss told talkSPORT. “I went down his gym last week with [trainer] Ben Davison. They’re working really well.

“It’s a dangerous fight, you know, I think on paper you expect AJ to take care of him, but as we saw on paper, it didn’t really pan out that way for the Fury fight.

“So we know that and Ngannou is a big lump. He punches hard. Mentally, he’s very strong and he can fight.

“But I just think AJ’s looking spectacular and I think he’s gonna do a job on Ngannou on March 8th.”