Anthony Joshua will continue his rehabilitation towards being a world-level heavyweight force when he takes on Francis Ngannou for a heavyweight bout in Saudi Arabia on Friday March 8, 2024.
Although no belts will be on the line, this will represent another payday for both men as well as a chance for Joshua to keep the momentum going as he climbs off the metaphorical canvas following a pair of defeats by Oleksandr Usyk.
Joshua has said he expects an “explosive” encounter when he takes on Ngannou, who made his professional boxing debut against Tyson Fury in October.
“He brings two arms, a body, but his mind is different to everyone else. In terms of his frame and make-up I’ve seen people like him many times before,” Joshua said. “My main focus is Ngannou and getting through an intense training camp. I have got to take his mind and his spirit, it will be explosive. We can both trade and it will be a good fight.”
Gareth A Davies, meanwhile, writes that this fight is no ‘gimmick’.
When is Joshua v Ngannou?
The bout is scheduled for Friday March 8.
Why is the fight being held on a Friday?
The fight is taking place on a Friday, rather than the usual Saturday night, to avoid a clash with the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix on March 9.
Where is the fight being held?
The bout will be contested in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, which is making a big play to become the new premium destination for world sporting events. Joshua fought there recently when he beat Otto Wallin.
How can I watch it in the UK?
Television details have not been announced, but the fight is guaranteed to be on pay-per-view, probably at a cost of more than £20.
Who is on the undercard line-up?
Zhilei Zhang v Joseph Parker
Rey Vargas v Nick Ball
Mark Chamberlain vs Gavin Gwynne
Justis Huni v TBC
Ziyad Almaayouf v TBC
Roman Fury v TBC
Jack McGann v TBC
Joshua v Ngannou is no gimmick fight
Joshua labelled Ngannou “a gimmick” in the heavyweight division when the former UFC star fought world champion Fury back in October.
But now the British heavyweight has the challenge of facing Ngannou, and proclaimed he would “take his soul” in the ring in their rumble in Riyadh.
There is more than a little jeopardy for Joshua when the two huge punchers collide in an event labelled ‘Knockout Chaos’, with the two fighters coming face to face in London to publicise the event.
The march towards the Middle East continues, with more ties and deeper investment. There is no “gimmick” in the growth of boxing’s big fight presence in Saudi Arabia. Saudi minister Turki Al-Sheikh, the chairman of the General Authority for Entertainment and Riyadh Season, has signalled his intent and signed Joseph Parker and Zhilei Zhang to the March card.
Rival British promoters Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn will also duke it out with a card later this year, bringing five fighters from each of their stables to go up against each other. Warren and Hearn shook hands on stage as the Saudi Minister announced the deal – with more to come, not least Tyson Fury’s undisputed heavyweight showdown with Oleksandr Usyk in Riyadh. Fury is already in Saudi Arabia for an eight-week camp and Ngannou leaves for the Kingdom on Tuesday.
Promoter George Warren, Frank Warren’s son who is working closely with Al-Sheikh, told Telegraph Sport: “I believe they’re here for the long term in the sport. This is just getting bigger and bigger, and the investment in boxing is here for the long term.”
His father, Frank, has said boxing “is being revolutionised”. Boxing’s propensity for politics and tendency towards procrastination is being turned on its head with these match-ups, which are bringing together the greatest fighters in their prime.
The next two months bring two of the biggest heavyweight events of the year: Fury has his work cut out against Usyk with two undefeated fighters sharing an era-defining, legacy-creating moment in February. Joshua puts his own reputation on the line against the dangerous Ngannou, whose storyline from growing up in poverty and digging in a sand quarry as a teenager to becoming an all-conquering cage fighter in Las Vegas is a Hollywood script in itself. From there, there is the possibility of it leading to the biggest, richest all-British fight of all time: Fury versus Joshua. It could happen. It is getting closer.
Joshua, fresh from a brilliant performance against Otto Wallin in December and newly rejuvenated under young trainer Ben Davison, is flying high at present. It showed in his business-like demeanour in the face of Ngannou, bedecked in a golden cape to the Briton’s track-suited attire.
Joshua exudes confidence at present; physically and mentally. “You have to take someone’s soul, you have to take their spirit. And I’m looking forward to the challenge for sure,” Joshua said, adding the the contest is an “explosive” encounter.
It will surely be that. But as we saw with Ngannou when he felled Fury in the third round of their fight back in October, he is a fighter capable of carpe diem moments. Sitting backstage with Ngannou just before the news conference, the 6ft 6ins 20-stone fighter rubbed his hands together.
“I won a long time ago, with what has happened to me in life,” Ngannou smiled. “Did I upset the heavyweight division against Tyson Fury... ? Watch me truly shock the world against Anthony Joshua. Shock the world. Bring change.”
Who can stand in front of Ngannou and doubt him, and the extraordinary narrative arc following his life. Just like boxing itself at the moment. Bringing change – and a new dawn.