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ANTHONY Joshua takes on Francis Ngannou in a 10-round non-title fight cross-code monster mashup on Friday night that has fight fans of all shapes and sizes excited.

The former two-time unified world heavyweight champion will stand across the ring from the former undisputed UFC champion in Saudi Arabia, and nobody quite knows what is going to happen.

On paper the fight is a mismatch, of course. A former Olympic gold medallist and career boxer taking on a fighter in just his second professional fight.

But when you’re first ever boxing bout was dropping and extending Tyson Fury over 10 rounds before losing controversially on the scorecards, the landscape rightfully shifts.


Ngannou, 37, may well be a boxing novice. But he’s a champion fighter.

Despite not training properly until the age of 26 – when he fled poverty in Cameroon to chase his sporting dreams in France – Ngannou was signed by the UFC after just six MMA fights.

When he quit the Octagon early in 2022, he had amassed a 17-3 record that included 12 knockouts, four submissions and a brief reign as UFC heavyweight champion.

Dana White and co. reportedly offered Ngannou the richest contract in their heavyweight history to stay, but the childhood dream that motivated him to flee Africa and live homeless in Paris burned too brightly.

Last October, he finally got that chance and shocked the world with his patient and proficient performance against Fury. And whilst the judges stole his fairytale ending, nobody could take away the respect he had earned.

AJ 2.0

Joshua, 34, also came to fight sports relatively late, wrapping his hands for the first time as an 18-year-old. But his rise was equally as prolific, collecting Olympic gold at London 2012 aged 22.

With a nation behind him, AJ cruised his way to his first world title in just 16 fights and added two more in quick succession.

His current form includes five wins set against three defeats, but doesn’t come close to narrating the true journey he has been on. AJ has even changed coaches four times, but his latest performance brings fresh hope.

Trainer Ben Davison, formerly in Tyson Fury’s corner, has seemingly unlocked AJ’s potential all over again and, in Saudi in December against Otto Wallin, Joshua was sharp, fast, confident and destructive once more.


Ngannou displayed a remarkable boxing brain against Fury, often out smarting the world #1 heavyweight with his back foot, switching stance approach.

He utilised a great jab and at no point – even when he dropped Fury in round three – did he throw with reckless abandon, as was widely predicted.

But that element of surprise, of Ngannou actually being a competent boxer, has now gone. AJ knows he is facing a more than capable foe.

Keeping the fight at range, utilising his hand speed, and slipping Ngannou’s jabs to make him pay is a sure-fire way AJ can race to a commanding lead.

For Ngannou, can lightning strike twice or should he fight to type and come out swinging? After all, if he lands on AJ’s chin and drops him like he did Fury, the mental fortitude isn’t comparable.

A switched on Joshua plays with Ngannou and cruises to a largely uneventful points decision. But Francis just needs one clean shot to let the chaos reign in Riyadh, so don’t blink!

TIP: Joshua on Points

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