Francis Ngannou has vowed to target Anthony Joshua’s chin when they fight in Saudi Arabia on March 8 with plenty on the line for both fighters.
The card, dubbed “Knockout Chaos,” will also feature Joseph Parker against Zhilei Zhang as the co-main event.
Former UFC champion Ngannou is out to prove his impressive performance against Tyson Fury in October — when he knocked the WBC champ down in the third round — was no fluke.
“I’m just a beginner out here that’s going to train really hard and come as an underdog to win the fight,” Ngannou said at a news conference on Monday. “Yes, the Tyson Fury fight was great, it was awesome, but that’s now in the past and I have a new challenge in front of me.
“I take it even more serious now than before because I think there’s something more on the line.”
Ngannou made no secret of how he’ll target Joshua, and as a novice boxer he knows his biggest strength is his knockout power.
“Yes, I heard that he doesn’t have a chin, I don’t know if it’s true or not,” Ngannou said. “We’re going to find out. I hope I have the opportunity to test that out. In the fight you try to hit somebody in the chin or wherever you can hit him.
“Maybe I will do something that nobody has done before and I really think I have the tools to do that, starting with a win against AJ.”
For Joshua, fighting less than three months after the win over Otto Wallin shows yet again his desire to keep active. A more convincing win over Ngannou than Fury could manage would be another building block in his pursuit of becoming a three-time heavyweight world champion.
“Every fight leads to somewhere,” Joshua said. “This fight is my everything. We’ll see where it leads me. Right now I’m not thinking about any champ belts or anything. My main focus is Francis and to be fair getting through intense focused training camp.”
Joshua also confirmed he will work with trainer Ben Davison again after the pair linked up prior to the victory over Wallin.
Joshua had agreed to a deal to fight former world champion Deontay Wilder before the Dec. 23 card but Wilder’s unanimous loss to Parker ruined those plans.
Promoter Eddie Hearn said as soon as Wilder lost that a fight with Ngannou became a very real prospect. The new deal didn’t take long to make.
“As soon as that show finished, his excellency [Saudi Prince Turki Al Alshaikh] said to myself and Frank [Warren], ‘We need to talk,'” Hearn said. “[He said,] ‘What is the biggest fight we can do on March 8th?’ It’s this one.
“There’s big jeopardy in this fight. This man [Joshua] is going to be the undisputed heavyweight world champion. I truly believe that. But he’s doing it the difficult way going through obstacles and what some might say an immovable object.
Warren also predicts fireworks and believes the bout will end in a knockout either way, hinting that the winner could go on to face the winner of Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, who face off next month.
“For AJ, I think he’s in a tough fight. I think there will be a knockout. They’ve both got bombs in their hands. For the winner, his excellency said, the big fight that’s happening on [Feb.17] with Tyson and Usyk… the winner of that, would we like to see them against the winner of this fight?
“Everybody in this room would love to see that, everyone in boxing would love to see that.”