Joshua Claims Ngannou Is The Biggest Challenge Of His Life

Boxing Scene

It is less than three weeks until Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou meet in the ring, but they have already come face-to-face on camera.

In a Face Off interview for DAZN, the two heavyweights, 34-year-old Joshua, who is 27-3 with 24 KOs, and Ngannou, 0-1 as a professional boxer, talked about how the March 8 fight in Saudi Arabia came about, and what they thought might happen.

Ngannou said that he realized as soon as Deontay Wilder lost to Joseph Parker in December the door for a Joshua fight would be open to him. 

“I asked for this fight,” said the 37-year-old. “I watched him [Joshua] fight [against Otto Wallin] and then I made a tweet right away. I know he was going to fight Deontay Wilder and I saw and opportunity there, I was calling for this fight. This is an opportunity where I can slide in.” 

Ngannou’s only other pro fight came in a close loss to Tyson Fury over 10 rounds last October in a contest in which the former UFC heavyweight champion floored Fury.

The bout served to alter perceptions of Ngannou as a boxer, and Joshua admits his views on the Cameroonian have changed.

“They spoke about this fight before and I said, ‘No, it’s a gimmick fight’,” Joshua said. “It’s not something that I think is right, crossing over when I’m still chasing heavyweight glory, and then when they saw what happened with his last fight [against Fury], the situation with Wilder, this opportunity presented itself. I never turn down a challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”

Does Joshua see it as a gimmick fight now? 

“No, it’s the biggest challenge of my life,” added the Ben Davison-trained contender. 

That said, Joshua had not been surprised by Ngannou’s efforts in pushing Fury to the wire.

“No, not all,” the former heavyweight champion explained. “I researched Ngannou and I watched Tyson Fury box a number of times. People claim he’s the greatest of many, many generations. I think if I boxed Tyson Fury, a lot of similarities will happen in the fight, so I’m not surprised. 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. That’s how boxing is, and we move forward.”

Calling the Joshua fight, “a good challenge”, Ngannou added some perspective about his boxing career to date.

“We are crossing over, this is a crossover,” he said. “This is my second fight, my second boxing fight, so my two first boxing matches I’m taking on two of the top three heavyweight boxers in the generation.”

The mood was respectful throughout the conversation, and only remotely became argumentative when the subject of punch resilience came up. Ngannou said he expected to knockout Joshua, but that he would not go looking for it.  

He also felt Fury could recover from shots that Joshua would not be able to withstand.

“I have a doubt about that,” Ngannou added. “Tyson showed to be very resilient. I saw him come back from a knockdown 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 AJ will take what Tyson had.”

“Who hasn’t knocked Tyson down? So many people have knocked Tyson down,” Joshua countered. “People underestimate me. I’m not saying you, people. Who has knocked me out like that?”

Ngannou called for the fight to be over 10 rounds rather than 12, but Joshua hopes Ngannou is merely a lucrative stop on his way back to the heavyweight titles.

“I wanted to fight for the championship, I wanted to lead my career to the championship, but this is still leading me towards the championship,” Joshua said. “I have to win, and when I win I’ll move onto fighting for the championship, that’s boxing; snakes and ladders. You win, you go up, you lose you slide down. I have to win to continue.”

With Ngannou hoping for a knockout victory, is Joshua expecting to win by stoppage? 

“I don’t know,” Joshua stated. “But it will be a good fight. It’s not even the strength I carry, it’s the brain. I ‘ll do what I need to do, I’ll do my best.” 

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