Home Boxing News Joe Joyce says former sparring partner Francis Ngannou is a wild card...

Joe Joyce says former sparring partner Francis Ngannou is a wild card in Anthony Joshua fight

Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou. Photo credit: Sky Sports

Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has long held ambitions to compete in the square circle.

Last year he got the chance to don the gloves when he took on undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury 34-0-1 (24) in his boxing debut and almost upset the applecart.

The 37-year-old Cameroonian surprised Fury with a left hook in the third frame of their 10-round non-title fight, sending him to the deck. He would eventually lose a close split decision in a fight some people thought he won.

Long before the Fury fight was locked in, British contender Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce 15-2 (14) sparred rounds with Ngannou in Las Vegas.

“Because he’s an MMA fighter and he’s not really been concentrating on boxing, he was a little bit more open and I could kind of see where the shots were coming from, move out the way and keep him on the jab,” Joyce recalled to Sky Sports.

“But them power shots are whistling past my abs and my chin in the process! But we had a really good spar and I’ve got a lot of respect for Ngannou.”

Ngannou returns to action this weekend when he takes on former two-time unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua 27-3 (24) at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Friday night.

Joyce says he has a real shot at doing damage.

“Of course. If he lands one of those big shots like he hit Fury with then I don’t think Joshua’s going to get up from that,” the 38-year-old Londoner said.

“He [Joshua] will probably be cagey in there. I think it’s going to be a good fight. As a match up they’ve both got power. I think it’s a great fight.

“He boxed really well against Fury. It’s an amazing story. Reached the heights of UFC and then challenged arguably the best in Tyson Fury and gave him a run for his money. He’s a bit of a wild card.”

In the main support bout Chinese southpaw Zhilei ‘Big Bang’ Zhang 26-1-1 (21) will take on former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker 34-3 (23).

Joyce knows both men well. He knocked out New Zealand’s Parker in the 11th round of their bout in September 2022 before being knocked out twice himself by the 40-year-old Zhang in their pair of battles in April and September of last year.

Parker, 32, is riding a four-fight win streak since the loss to Joyce, including an impressive points victory over big-punching former WBC champion Deontay Wilder 43-3-1 (42) in his last outing in December.

“He’s a younger fighter than Zhang, if he can push him to those later rounds and Zhang gets tired that’s when you’ll see Parker put some shots together and he could potentially knock him out,” Joyce said.

“Parker can be a bit more of a mover, Zhang’s feet are very static but he holds that power and speed. He’s tough as well. So Parker’s going to have to box in and out. Maybe he’s better at fighting southpaws than me.

“If I was a betting man I would probably bet on Zhang. But I would like to see Parker win.”