Anthony Joshua vs.Francis Ngannou done deal: Hype or Heresy?

By Will Arons - 01/05/2024 - Comments

Anthony Joshua will be fighting former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in a ten round boxing in Saudi Arabia. Eddie Hearn confirms Joshua vs. Ngannou is a done deal, and there’s a press conference scheduled for January 15th to discuss the fight.

This move by Hearn & his Matchroom company won’t please boxing fans, as Ngannou (0-1) lost his last fight, and he’s failing his way into the fight with Joshua, and just getting the match based on his popularity as a MMA fighter, not because of what he’s done in boxing, which is nothing other than losing to flabby, out of shape 35-year-old Tyson Fury last October.

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Exhibition or legit?

In Hearn’s post on social media announcing the Joshua-Ngannou, he didn’t say whether it’ll be an exhibition for a real fight. Normally, commissions won’t sanction fights between vastly experienced former world champions and fighters just starting out at 0-1.

Sure, Ngannou has fought in MMA, which is a form of combat sports, but that’s not boxing. If the commissions refuse to sanction the Joshua vs. Ngannou, will the organizers make an exhibition or hunt for an obscure commission that will sanction the fight?

Ngannou’s fight with Tyson Fury was sanctioned last October in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, so that likely means that the commission will do the same for the Joshua-Ngannou fight.

It likely doesn’t matter if Joshua loses the fight to Ngannou. He’ll still get the title shot against the winner of the second clash between WBC heavyweight champion Fury and IBF, WBA & WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk in December.

This is more about money & celebrity than sport with these fights. Ngannou doesn’t deserve to be fighting Joshua, and AJ won’t rate a title shot if he somehow loses to Francis.

Some would argue the Joshua vs. Ngannou fight debases the sport, especially if it’s sanctioned and made a legitimate fight. When you have a 0-1 fighter coming off a loss fighting a former two-time heavyweight champion and a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, that’s just wrong.

Ngannou going for the money

“I heard Dana White say something about, ‘These MMA fighters are not making more money in boxing,’ and all I can do is laugh,” said Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions to Fighthype, reacting to the news of the Anthony Joshua vs. Francis Ngannou fight being a done deal for Saudi Arabia to take place next in a boxing match.

“Are you kidding me? Why do you think MMA fighters are going into boxing and crossing over? For the payday. That’s it, that’s the bottom line, and to test them, which is admirable because an MMA fighter going into the ring to face an elite fighter not only takes courage, but you have to believe in yourself and your skill. That’s admirable,” said De La Hoya.

This could create a tidal wave of MMA fighters following Ngannou’s path to come over to boxing, looking to make big money in crossover fights, the greedy promoters will agree to do.

What’s sad is that the real boxers are getting pushed aside in favor of the non-boxers coming over in fights that normally aren’t competitive.

The only Ngannou did well against the 35-year-old Tyson Fury last October is because he was old and out of shape, and his fighting style has turned into a mauling, wrestling type since teaming up with SugarHill Steward several years ago.

It was the perfect style for Ngannou to do well against. Joshua doesn’t fight like that, and neither do most of the top-tier heavyweights, so this fight is likely to be a mismatch.

“But when Dana White says they’re not making more money,” said De La Hoya. “Bull. They’re making tons of money inside the ring in boxing. That’s the bottom line. That’s why you’re seeing Joshua with Ngannou. That’s why you’re seeing this other kid with pink hair calling out. These guys are warriors, man. Calling out guys like that. It takes courage.

“I’m happy for them. Make all the money. Come to our side of the street and make the real money,” said De La Hoya.

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