Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou official as Saudi Arabia’s boxing takeover continues

Ex-UFC champion Ngannou made his pro boxing debut in October, knocking down Tyson Fury before losing a controversial decision

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Friday 05 January 2024 22:02 GMT
Cristiano Ronaldo's awkward reaction Conor McGregor

A boxing match between Anthony Joshua and former UFC champion Francis Ngannou has been made official, as Saudi Arabia’s boxing takeover continues.

Combat-sports journalist Ariel Helwani reported the news on Friday (5 January), citing Turki Al-Sheikh – the Saudi adviser overseeing boxing in the region. Queensberry Promotions then confirmed the news, adding that Riyadh will host the bout. It was later announced that the fight will take place on 8 March.

Joshua boxed in Riyadh in December, stopping Otto Wallin in the main event of a seismic fight card, two months after Ngannou made his professional boxing debut against Tyson Fury in the same city.

Mixed martial artist Ngannou, 37, lost a controversial decision to Fury after knocking down the WBC heavyweight champion, and he is now set to fight another Briton in Joshua.

According to Helwani, the bout will be scheduled for 10 rounds.

Joshua, 34, beat Wallin via fifth-round TKO after the Swede’s corner pulled him from the fight, marking “AJ”’s third win from as many bouts in 2023. That trio of victories has marked an emphatic response by Joshua to his back-to-back defeats by Oleksandr Usyk.

Joshua’s second reign as unified heavyweight champion came to an end at the hands of Usyk in 2021, when the Ukrainian won via decision in London. The unbeaten Usyk also outpointed Joshua in 2022, in Saudi Arabia, to retain the belts.

Usyk has since signed to fight Fury, also unbeaten, in Riyadh in February, with the winner set to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion in 24 years. Fury’s WBC belt will be on the line – unlike in his bout with Ngannou – as will Usyk’s WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO titles.

Ngannou mocks Tyson Fury after knocking down the boxer (AFP via Getty Images)

Ngannou held the UFC heavyweight title from 2021 until 2023 and vacated the gold while leaving the company last January. The Cameroonian then signed with the Professional Fighters League – a rival promotion to the UFC – which has allowed him to box ahead of his debut in the company.

Joshua was expected to fight Deontay Wilder after beating Wallin, but the American lost a lopsided decision against Joseph Parker on the same fight card, seemingly ruining the chances of a mega-fight between AJ and Wilder. It was then suggested that AJ would target a bout with Filip Hrgovic, likely for the IBF heavyweight title, if the Fury vs Usyk winner were to vacate the belt.

It is unclear what Friday’s news means for a potential Joshua vs Hrgovic bout.

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