Boxing: Ngannou ready to face Joshua 0

It was one of the most arresting spectacles in boxing for some time: Francis Ngannou dancing a jig of pleasure while leaning over a floored and obviously dazed Tyson Fury.

For boxing purists, disaster was brewing. Was a UFC fighter, in his very first boxing match, about to knock out a reigning world heavyweight champion?

Fury got back up and eventually won a much-discussed and unconvincing split decision victory, but Ngannou had made a spectacular entrance into the boxing world.

On Friday, the Franco-Cameroonian has another chance to shake up the established order and prepare for a new showdown with Fury.

Ngannou is back in Saudi Arabia for the second fight of his career, this time against another Briton, former two-time heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua.

Much of the pre-fight news assumes a victory for Joshua which would allow him to face Fury, provided that the latter – WBC champion – beats Oleksandr Usyk – WBA, IBF and WBO champion – in their rearranged fight on May 18 which will crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion since the year 2000.

Ngannou is; however, ready to make headlines in his bid to become a boxing champion so soon after dominating the UFC scene.

“I exposed myself – the next opponent (Joshua) knows what to expect,” Ngannou said upon his arrival in Riyadh. “I’ve lost the element of surprise. So how can I surprise him again? What can I pull out of my sleeve one more time?”

Ngannou exudes a cool and confident air. He may be new to elite boxing, but the sport was his first love during a difficult upbringing in Cameroon, and he said it was only a matter of time before he returned to it.

“At the beginning, it was boxing. I didn’t know MMA. And for more than a decade, I only thought about boxing, I dreamed about boxing,” he said.

“Then even when the opportunity presented itself (in the UFC), it was an opportunity for me to shine, to be a world champion, and then potentially change to transition and come back to boxing. I feel like it was something that I needed, that I had to accomplish, to be at peace with myself.”

Ngannou, 37, fell out with the UFC and UFC president Dana White stripped him of his belt in January last year. Within five months, Ngannou signed with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), a rival organization.

However, he has yet to fight in the PFL as he is focusing on boxing. He intends to continue his career in MMA, but alongside boxing, not instead of it.

The big question heading into the Ngannou-Joshua fight – the latest high-profile boxing event in what is quickly becoming the sport’s new home in Saudi Arabia – is: Fury won’t Is he just not prepared well enough? Did Fury simply prepare poorly against Ngannou, thinking he would be easy to beat, but instead finding himself sprawled on the canvas in the third round of a fight that, against all odds, went the distance? Or is Ngannou a true champion and a born pugilist?

The answer should come on Friday, in the final fight for Joshua, who regained his place after two consecutive defeats to Usyk, which cost him his titles and put his career at a crossroads.

Since then, he has won three consecutive fights, but none of them were against elite opponents. His fifth-round stoppage against Otto Wallin in Riyadh in December was a comeback performance, demonstrating his powerful jab and then his renowned power, following disappointing victories against Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius.

Ngannou promises to be a much tougher challenge and the prize is huge, with Fury having already called out Joshua to be his next opponent if he gets away with Usyk.

“It’s the fast track to undisputed,” said Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, who is already planning a big-money Joshua-Fury fight that he has failed to secure several times. repeated over the past five years.

As for Joshua, he focuses on the present. “Francis is a hell of a fighter,” he said, “strong, a big hitter and a much better boxer than we all thought he would ever be.”

Source: Africa News