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Fight Week: It’s Anthony Joshua’s turn to tangle with Francis Ngannou

FIGHT WEEK

Former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is scheduled to face MMA star-turned-boxer Francis Ngannou on pay-per-view Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

ANTHONY JOSHUA (27-3, 24 KOs)
VS. FRANCIS NGANNOU (0-1, 0 KOs)

  • Date: Saturday, March 8

  • Time: 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT (main event later in show)

  • Where: Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

  • TV/Stream: Pay-per-view

  • Division: Heavyweight (no limit)

  • At stake: No major titles

  • Pound-for-pound: None

  • Odds: Joshua 4-1 favorite (average of multiple outlets)

  • Significance (up to five stars): ****

  • Also on the card: Zhilei Zhang vs. Joseph Parker, heavyweights; Rey Vargas vs. Nick Ball, featherweights (for Vargas’ WBC title); Gavin Gwynne vs. Mark Chamberlain, lightweights; Justis Huni vs. Kevin Lerena, heavyweights

  • Background: Can Ngannou do it again? The MMA star-turned-boxer shocked the boxing world by pushing heavyweight titleholder Tyson Fury to his limits on Oct. 28, when he lost a split decision. And he’s jumping directly into another fight with an established star, two-time champion Joshua. Ngannou probably benefitted from the fact Fury took him lightly, which Joshua will not have done. However, Ngannou demonstrated that he’s a capable boxer with unusual physical strength. He’s a genuine threat to Joshua even though he’s around a 4-1 underdog. Joshua is coming off his strongest performances in years, demolishing a solid opponent in Otto Wallin in five rounds on Dec. 23 at Kingdom Arena. He has now won three consecutive times since he lost back-to-back fights against Oleksandr Usyk in 2021 and 2022. And he seems to be thriving under new trainer Ben Davison. The winner of this fight will be in a strong position to face the winner of the May 18 Usyk-Fury matchup, as will the winner of the Zhilei Zhang-Joseph Parker fight on the undercard Friday. Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) is coming off back-to-back knockouts of former title contender Joe Joyce last year. Parker (34-3, 23 KOs) delivered a career-changing unanimous decision victory over fellow former titleholder Deontay Wilder on the Joshua-Wallin card. The Kiwi has won four connective fights since he was stopped by Joyce in 11 rounds in 2022.

 

ALSO FIGHTING THIS WEEK

THURSDAY

  • Steven Butler vs. Steve Rolls, middleweights, Montreal (ESPN+)

  • Ariel Lopez vs. Gregorio Lebron, featherweights, New Yok (Boxinginsider.com)

SATURDAY

  • Azael Villar vs. Jairo Noriega, junior flyweights, Managua, Nicaragua (ESPN+)

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie