Should Francis Ngannou continue his boxing career after KO loss to Joshua?


Francis Ngannou got demolished by Anthony Joshua on Friday in Saudi Arabia, brutally knocked out in the second round of his second pro boxing bout.

The former UFC heavyweight champion was dropped three times including the vicious final right hand that ended things, a much different experience this time than he had last October when he faced Tyson Fury and lost a 10-round split decision.

“Sorry guys, I let you all down,” Ngannou said. “Today was a bad day in the office but tomorrow will be another day. Thank you for all the love.”

Ngannou is a likable guy, at least so far as he’s approached his boxing endeavors. Confident, but not arrogant. Clearly took it seriously and tried to be the best he can be. Delusional? Sure, but in some ways — not all — that’s a good and even necessary thing for any pro fighter. You have to believe you can win to even have a chance.

Against a Tyson Fury who took it all as “a bit of entertainment” and clearly hadn’t trained much, Ngannou shocked the world even without victory. Fury not only showed up out of shape and clearly soft even for him — not a “body beautiful” guy in the first place — then took the hilariously bad approach of trying to lean and clinch with someone whose background made him much better than Fury at that sort of thing, not to mention Ngannou being significantly physically stronger.

Ngannou bullied Fury, in some ways, and dropped him once. By how boxing fights are actually scored, I did think Fury won, but it was one of the least inspiring wins you’ll ever see. And the true victor really was Francis Ngannou, who should not have been able to compete like that with Tyson Fury.

The chickens came home to roost against Anthony Joshua on Friday. Joshua, frankly, did what a proper world class boxer should do against someone who is a novice at this craft. Ngannou was actually doing alright in the first round, until an ill-advised switch to southpaw found him smacked to the canvas in short order.

Stance-switching is the sort of thing very few experienced pros can legitimately find success with at top level; it’s very, very hard to do well. Ngannou trying it against Joshua is an example of the bad part of the aforementioned necessary delusion. At best, he simply didn’t get that he wasn’t good enough to do this, because nobody had demonstrated to him what a bad idea it was. AJ helped him figure it out quickly.

Ngannou never went back to the southpaw stance, but also didn’t get much opportunity. At the point of the first round knockdown, Joshua had seen all he needed to see. This is a former three-belt heavyweight titleholder as a pro and an Olympic gold medalist 12 years ago. And I tend to agree with John Fury that Joshua has learned on the job over time and gotten better at a lot of things, and that his getting new eyes on him in training camp in the last couple years has improved him, too.

The second round saw Joshua waiting for the chance. He dropped Ngannou a second time, and realistically, referee Ricky Gonzalez could have stopped the fight there. Ngannou was a sitting duck when the action resumed, and AJ didn’t fool around.

Right hand. Ballgame — by way of pure devastation.

Knockout Chaos - Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou: Fight Night

Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images

After the dust has settled, Ngannou was urged to continue his boxing career by Joshua (28-3, 25 KO), but this is a 37-year-old fighter who is now 0-2, and this sort of one-sided thrashing will greatly diminish his marketability as a professional boxer.

So should Ngannou keep boxing?

One short answer is yes, at least if the money’s going to be there. He’s signed with the MMA promotion PFL, after a harsh parting of ways with UFC, but he hasn’t fought in that sport for over two years, and at his age, a break that long in any competitive endeavor runs the risk of seeing you return having lost “it” in the meantime.

But against whom would the money be there? If the Saudis — who don’t care about money the way a normal fight promoter would, because they have a basically endless supply of it — will pay for Ngannou vs Deontay Wilder, then there’s monster punching intrigue in that, even with Wilder coming off of a miserable performance against Joseph Parker in December, and has never been less marketable. Again, this doesn’t matter to the Saudis the way it would to Eddie Hearn or Frank Warren or someone putting their own money up, but it also doesn’t not matter. And if not Deontay, then who?

The hard truth is that there are a lot more pro boxers than just the top names against whom Ngannou might get smoked. When the idea of him coming to boxing first ramped up a couple years back, he met with Eddie Hearn, who wanted to rush him right into a fight with Joshua. At the time, Joshua was not interested in a “gimmick” fight.

The reason Hearn wanted to do Joshua vs Ngannou immediately was simple, and he admitted it openly: If Ngannou tried to “get his feet wet” against some lesser pro boxer, he might just lose and kill his chances to make huge money in at least a single fight.

That holds true now. If Ngannou tries to fight anyone above a total scrub to get a win or two in a boxing ring, he runs a very high chance of just losing, and at a level far below Fury or Joshua. Someone like Michael Coffie or Faiga Opelu, not exactly top names or contenders, might just crush him. And then what?

Ngannou continuing in boxing that way carries a lot of risk, and not just to his career in the sweet science, but to whatever’s left of his career in MMA. This loss, the way it happened, will sting him for a while. Ngannou has pride, and though by all rational logic he has nothing to be ashamed of for how his boxing “career” has gone, rational logic is for those on the outside. He’s the one who had it happen. The money will soothe some part of it, but the money is also on the verge of diminishing greatly if not drying up, and at his age, time is ticking to make more of it in big chunks.

The decision Ngannou makes for what’s next is crucial. And I’m still at least a little interested, because he’s easily made me a fan in both sports.

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