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Joshua vs Ngannou: When Predator becomes Prey

‘Knockout Chaos’ definitely lived up to its name by the end of Friday night, as two behemoths collided on a spectacular night in Riyadh.


Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou made his second boxing appearance against former two time heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua.


The fight promised us one thing; knockout chaos. Anthony Joshua being the former unified heavyweight champion in boxing and Francis Ngannou having an impressive outing in his first boxing match against Tyson Fury, promised two of the hardest punchers in their respective natural sports to be something special.


The scheduled 10 round fight didn't even get to last six minutes. In the build up to the fight, Ngannou had spoken about how he didn’t believe AJ had a chin and planned to test it for him. Karma struck, as it ended up being the MMA man whose chin got tested, and exposed. 


Francis tried to be clever and switch his stance, which made it easy for AJ to throw and land a straight right hand down the pipe, which sent Ngannou sliding on his backside into the ropes. Stunned but not dazed, ‘The Predator’ got back to his feet to finish the round.


In the second round, the heavy handed Joshua landed a mean counter right hand which again sent Ngannou to the canvas, this time the former UFC man looked a lot more hurt than he did a few minutes prior. Ngannou found himself to his feet, but a poaching Anthony Joshua quickly sent his opponent to sleep, as he pounced out his corner like a lion and landed what many people have claimed to be one of the most devastating knockouts in heavyweight boxing over the last few years. A thunderous straight right hand saw his opponent folded in half, lying flat on his back like a murder scene.


The Predator became prey, and urgent medical attention was required for Francis as he laid flat on his back for quite a few minutes. Eventually, he found his footing and made it up off the floor, however he visibly looked lost post fight, as he held his head down in shame. 


Before the fight, Ngannou had made claims that he saw himself running through the heavyweight division in boxing, after an impressive performance against current world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury a few months prior. Inevitably, after a performance like that, there was talk of matchups against AJ and Wilder, as was the possibility of a title challenge within a few fights.


Those dreams however quickly went to bed, after he was brutally knocked out in Saudi Arabia on Friday 8th March. It marked the first time he’d ever been knocked down in his combat sports career, let alone stopped, as many deemed him to be an immovable object, having taken some flush legal and illegal shots off Fury in their blockbuster matchup. 


AJ’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, labelled his British poster boy as ‘the baddest man on the planet’, a title which has often been crowned to the heavyweight champion of the world throughout history. A title many people gave to Ngannou after the ‘Battle of the Baddest’ matchup, after he arguably beat Tyson Fury that night, was quickly stripped of him Friday night. It’s also a title that has often been bestowed on Mike Tyson, one of the most dangerous and most ferocious punchers in history, and a man who spent a lot of time with Francis helping him master the sweet science. We’ll have to see if Mike thinks his student still has the right to adopt that title!


Hearn also described Joshua as “the best heavyweight on the planet”, a claim which Fury quickly struck down in an interview after the fight who said “we’ll have to see what Oleksandr Usyk makes of that”. AJ has had two fights with the Ukrainian man, losing his heavyweight belts at Tottenham Stadium in 2021 where he was completely outclassed and failed to regain them in Saudi Arabia the following summer, where he experienced one of the lowest moments in his career as he suffered a mental breakdown after finding out the match result.


Whilst it’s up for debate as to who's the best heavyweight boxer, the numbers haven’t lied about who's the most prolific. After the fight, Joshua saw his Instagram following increase by over half a million, now making him the most followed boxer on social media. His two reels displaying his knockdowns have garnered 30 million and 20 million views respectively, turning his performance into a viral internet sensation. He also posted a selfie of him and Ngannou, which has reached over 1.5 million likes as well. A few years ago when he made his USA debut against Andy Ruiz, there were talks about if Joshua could become a global superstar, such as the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James. If he can keep fighting in such large magnitude events across the world, and put on viral performances like this, there’s an argument to say that he may well reach international superstardom. 


A shocked Tyson Fury watched the demolition act take place, and fans felt he looked nervous watching his former opponent, who he appeared to struggle against, get slumped in a matter of minutes. He currently has the undisputed matchup against AJ’s old foe, Oleksandr Usyk, in May to take care of, but fight fans are more eager than ever to see the two Brits battle it out, in what would arguably be one of the biggest sporting events in history. 


Fury’s resumé has taken some hits as of late, with a string of opponents who he looked like he struggled against, being dispatched easily by fellow contenders. On December 23rd, two of his old rivals were easily taken care of, with AJ being one of the protagonists on the night. Otto Wallin, the guy who took Fury the distance and gave him a bad cut above his eye, was steamrolled by Joshua, who saw a stoppage victory as his Swedish opponent was pulled out of the fight by the end of the 5th round.


Deontay Wilder, the American powerhouse who Fury had three wars against, looked like a deer in the headlights as he was picked apart across 12 rounds by Fury’s training partner Joseph Parker. Parker didn’t get hurt once, and played a smart fight, unlike Fury who was sent crashing onto the canvas numerous times and almost knocked out cold during their historic trilogy. 


Granted these two fighters were in their primes when Fury fought them, but fans still believe his background has lost credibility because of recent outcomes for his former rivals. 


Styles do make fights, and despite Joshua having had an exhilarating 12 months in boxing, with four victories from four, Fury is a strong fighter, who has withstood arguably the most powerful punching man in history, and doesn’t shy away from the heavy hitters. However, his chin may well have deteriorated after those wars, and a hungry AJ who is on the hunt to become a three time world champion, a feat first achieved by Muhammad Ali in the 70s, is ready to detonate another right hand to any one of his opponents. 


And if there was one thing Friday night proved, it’s MMA fighters do NOT hit harder than boxers. Ngannou was claimed to be the hardest punching man in the world, after he scored a very high score on a punching machine which gave a wildly optimistic expectation of how he would perform in a real fight. Across his two boxing matches, people talked about the result if he landed one of those swingers punches. However, a cube doesn’t have head-movement, doesn’t have footwork, and definitely doesn’t hit back! The likes of Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Zhelei Zhang, (who lost to Parker on Friday despite scoring two knockdowns), have all proven their strength in high level competitive boxing fights against some of the best fighters on the planet, and didn’t need a machine to tell them if they hit hard.


MMA fighters should use this fight as a lesson, that to think it’s a good idea to step in the ring with a ready, switched on world champion boxer is the complete polar opposite. UFC president Dana White commented “if Tyson Fury trained for the fight and didn’t show up looking like he’d eaten Tyson Fury, that’s probably the way that fight would’ve ended too. Crossovers in boxing - that’s how they end. Just like that”.


As for AJ, he has his eyes set on one prize, the winner of Fury and Uysk, making that his clear mission. Whilst boxing politics have meant that he won’t get that opportunity immediately, if he can plough through his opponents between now and then, he’s set himself up perfectly to not only compete in one of the biggest fights in history should Fury become victorious, but also to become one of the biggest sports stars on the planet. Not bad for someone who a few years ago people shunned after his breakdown, what a turn around.


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