Anthony Joshua vs. Francis Ngannou: former world champion faces MMA star with future title fight potentially on the line

CNNThe worlds of boxing and mixed martial arts have become entwined in recent years, with the stars of both sports meeting in the boxing ring to display their various talents.

Francis Ngannou is arguably the fighter who has taken the swap of disciplines most seriously, clashing with world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury last year in his boxing debut and more than holding his own in a controversial defeat.

And the former UFC heavyweight title holder will once again step into the ring to take on another British former world heavyweight champion, this time in the shape of Anthony Joshua.

With a possible future title fight on the line – reports have suggested the winner could face the victor of the highly-anticipated Fury-Oleksandr Usyk unification fight – there’s a lot riding on Joshua and Ngannou’s clash.

Here’s everything you need to know.

How to watch?

Ngannou and Joshua will exchange blows on Friday, March 8 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the location of Ngannou’s previous fight against Fury.

They will take part in a 10-round clash, with their ring walks expected at around 6 p.m.
E.T. / 11 p.m. UK time.

Fans in the US and around the world can watch the event on DAZN pay-per-view, while Sky Sports will show the event in the UK.

Switching sports

Ngannou’s switch to boxing perhaps shouldn’t have come as a surprise given he began his fighting career in the ring.

Even before that, Ngannou underwent a remarkable journey – leaving Cameroon with just a backpack and traveling north through Africa to reach Europe – just to train as a fighter.

Ngannou battled crossing the Mediterranean by sea and was even detained in Spain for two months in a migrant center for illegally entering the country, according to the Guardian, before eventually reaching Paris where he found a gym to train. He remembers what he asked the owner at that time.

“I have no money, I have nothing, but I want to be a world champion.”

However, the French-Cameroonian later moved to the octagon and went on to have huge success with the UFC.

He won the UFC heavyweight title in 2021, taking off of Stipe Miocic and later defended it against Frenchman Ciryl Gane.

Although Ngannou later left the UFC over a contract dispute and moved to the Professional Fighters League, he has yet to compete in the PFL and instead focused on his boxing career.

His debut fight against Fury came with a lot of fanfare, and Ngannou lived up to it as he traded blows with one of the greats of the sport, knocking down the British fighter in the third round of their clash. Despite losing on points, many scored the fight in Ngannou’s favor.

Ngannou has said that he thought that he won the fight with Fury and called himself the “underground king” of boxing.

Joshua himself was also impressed by Ngannou’s display. “I was watching the Fury and Ngannou fight from home, and from what I saw, I thought he won,” Joshua told Sky Sports.


“It’s not a gimmick, it’s not something that’s benefiting the broadcasters, it’s not just a fight for entertainment purposes,” added Joshua.

“This is a serious fight with someone who is prepared and understands the dynamic of boxing and he’s putting up a good fight against the apparently generational great. So I look at it now as something completely different.”

And ahead of his second professional boxing fight, Ngannou is confident of victory against Joshua, also questioning his opponent’s ability to withstand his power.

“I heard that he doesn’t have a chin,” Ngannou said, per Reuters.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not. We’re going to find out. I hope I have the opportunity to test that out, that’s my wish.”

A path back to the top

For Joshua, the fight is the next stage on his road to redemption.

Having burst onto the boxing scene with a 22-fight unbeaten streak, a defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. and two to Usyk have dented his reputation as a serious title contender.

The 34-year-old has achieved a three-fight win streak to put himself back in contention, but he still hasn’t yet returned to his previously untouchable status.

While some suggested Fury didn’t take Ngannou seriously enough before their fight, Joshuya is making no such assumptions.

“I don’t put that pressure on myself and I don’t have that thought about anything.

I just think about winning and doing what I need to do, that’s my mentality,” Joshua said.

“It’s a fight, it’s a 50/50 fight. Anything can happen. Crazier things have happened before. It is what it is. It’s a great opportunity for me to go back to work. If I didn’t take this opportunity that’s presented to me, when would I be fighting next?

“When you look at it, I’m not at the start of my career, I’m not at the middle of my career, I’d say I’m probably towards the end of my career.


“Call it whatever you want to call it, I’m just happy to be at work and doing my job and I can’t wait for the next opportunity that presents itself.”

A clash between the two British heavyweight boxing stars – Joshua and Fury – has been tipped for years now, but has never taken place.

If Joshua was to win against Ngannou, promoter Eddie Hearn isn’t ruling out the long-clamored bout finally taking place.

“The dream for Joshua has always been to be undisputed,” Hearn told the BBC. “If AJ beats Ngannou and Fury beats Usyk, the whole world will be calling for Fury vs. Joshua.

“It’s probably one of the biggest fights in the history of the sport. Certainly the biggest fight in boxing now.”