Francis Ngannou shocked the world when he squared off against Tyson Fury in 2023, knocking boxing’s undisputed champion down in the third round and putting on a much better performance than most fans and pundits had anticipated.
Ngannou ended up losing a controversial split decision, but his performance earned him lots of credibility in the boxing world. He was no longer one of the gimmicky MMA fighters looking for huge paydays in boxing, and the WBC now has him ranked number ten in the heavyweight division’s rankings.
Ngannou is now set to face two-time unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua on March 8, in Saudi Arabia, and there’s a good chance the winner will get a shot at the Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk title showdown.
A boxing match featuring Francis Ngannou and any other top-ten heavyweight makes sense given the skills he showcased against the Fury. Francis showed he had good boxing instincts and ring intelligence during his bout against Fury, controlling the latter’s lead hand for most of the fight and setting up his power shot well.
It’s a rare thing for a professional athlete to face the best a sport has to offer in their debut, but Francis passed with flying colors and made it clear he belongs in the ring with the best boxers around.
Francis will find himself going against a motivated Joshua, who is coming off one of his best performances in years after putting Otto Wallin away in the fifth round. Rumors of Joshua fighting Deontay Wilder circulated leading up to his last fight, but Wilder ended up getting outclassed by Anthony Parker and lost a unanimous decision, bringing an end to those conversations.
A Joshua vs. Ngannou matchup makes lots of sense since either man could emerge victorious. AJ appears to be making a resurgence while Ngannou has shown he has what it takes to compete with the world’s best boxers. Some would even argue that the matchup favors Ngannou a bit given how many times Joshua has been knocked down by powerful punchers like Andy Ruiz.
Ruiz knocked Joshua down four times before putting him away in the seventh round of their first fight. Joshua has been a lot more cautious in his fights since then, favoring tactics and defense. Ngannou is one of those opponents with more than enough power to send Joshua to the canvas, and the Cameroonian plans to test Joshua’s chin when they collide.
“Yes, I heard that he doesn’t have a chin,” Francis explained during their first presser. “I don’t know if it’s true or not. We’re going to find out. I hope I have an opportunity to test that out. That’s my wish, that’s what I’m wishing for.”
What The Fight Means For Anthony Joshua
Many in the boxing world thought Joshua was done after getting stopped by Andy Ruiz in 2019 and suffering back-to-back losses to Usyk a few years later. His struggles started with his first fight against Ruiz, a fight many expected the man who brought the Klitschko era to end win easily.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist redeemed himself during his rematch with Ruiz, but his fighting style was considerably different this time around. He wasn’t any more aggressive during his next few outings and ended up losing his belts to Usyk and lost a rematch.
Joshua looked a lot like his old self during his latest outing against Wallin, setting the pace from the start and breaking his opponent’s nose. The question now is if he’ll be able to keep his aggression up during his showdown with Ngannou or revert to a defense-first style.
One thing’s for sure, this matchup gives Joshua a clear path to reclaiming the belts he once had. The winner of Ngannou vs. Joshua will be the popular choice for the winner of the Fury vs. Usyk title bout, while a loss could be a career-ending blow for Joshua. Francis has a little less to lose and he’ll most likely be able to get other big-name fights even if he loses but puts on a respectable showing.
“Every fight leads to somewhere, so this fight is my everything; my soul, my spirit, my mind, my body,” Joshua explained at the press conference. “We’ll see where it leads me.”
What The Fight Means For Francis Ngannou
Ngannou was able to secure his fight with Tyson Fury after signing with the Professional Fight League (PFL) in 2023 after parting ways with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was the promotion’s reigning heavyweight champion when both parties split and many pundits believed he was committing career suicide by leaving the UFC’s banner in search of a big-name boxing fight.
Francis turned out to be a considerably better businessman than many gave him credit for and managed to pull off one of the biggest spectacles in recent boxing history. His performance against Fury has now earned him another big payday. Ngannou earned an estimated $10 million for his performance against Fury, a lot more than his $600,000 purse for his final title fight in the UFC against Cyril Gane.
Ngannou has emerged as one of the most inspiring figures in combat sports, but he’ll be the underdog walking into his second professional boxing fight at +470.
Francis understands how big this opportunity is as it puts him one fight away from potentially becoming boxing’s heavyweight champion. He’d be the first fighter ever to accomplish that feat in mixed martial arts and boxing if that ever occurs.
While Francis’s accomplishments inside the cage helped him to secure a contract with the PFL and the fight with Fury, there’s a good chance he will never step inside the cage again. Boxing simply provides more lucrative opportunities, and it is Ngannou’s first love in combat sports.
It was fate that turned an aspiring boxer into one of the biggest names in MMA, and it’s ironic how things have now come full circle for him. There’s a good chance the 10-round fight featuring Ngannou and Joshua will turn out to be just as entertaining as the former’s boxing debut.
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