Ngannou, Joshua to square off in boxing match

Boxing

Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou have struck a deal for a heavyweight boxing match in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Turki Alalshikh, Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, announced Friday on social media.

The fight will take place on March 9, sources told ESPN.

Joshua (27-3, 24 KOs) was set to fight Deontay Wilder in a long-awaited clash on March 9 in Riyadh before Wilder was upset last month by Joseph Parker. Later that night, Joshua scored a fifth-round TKO of Otto Wallin after he fractured his nose.

The Dec. 23 card in Riyadh was meant to set up the Joshua-Wilder clash, but now Alalshikh has turned to, perhaps, an even more intriguing matchup for AJ.

Joshua’s win over Wallin capped a resurgent 2023 campaign for the former heavyweight champion. He fought three times, and most importantly, showed the sort of killer instinct against Wallin that’s mostly been lacking since his upset TKO loss to Andy Ruiz in June 2019.

“I’m on a journey, and I’m going to stay focused,” Joshua, 34, said after the win. The bout was his first with trainer Ben Davison. “I don’t celebrate when we win these fights. I celebrate when I win the titles.”

A victory over Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion, will bring him one step closer to that goal.

Ngannou, 36, made his professional boxing debut in shocking fashion when he floored heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in October in Riyadh en route to a split-decision loss.

Now, Ngannou (0-1) will prepare to prove the performance was no fluke against yet another British boxing star.

Joshua, a two-time heavyweight champion, regained his titles from Ruiz in Riyadh in December 2019, but then dropped a pair of fights to Oleksandr Usyk.

Usyk meets Fury on Feb. 17 in Riyadh for the undisputed heavyweight championship, a bout that includes a two-way rematch clause.

The winner of Joshua-Ngannou should be well-positioned for a future clash against whoever emerges from Fury-Usyk with the titles.

Joshua, ESPN’s No. 3 heavyweight, also owns wins over Parker and Wladimir Klitschko. Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, said a news conference will take place Jan. 15 in London.

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