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Other SportsAnthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou: Preview, how to watch, full card and...

Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou: Preview, how to watch, full card and prediction

The state of play

Francis Ngannou came within a whisker of one of boxing’s great upsets last year, knocking undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury down before suffering a contentious split-decision defeat.

While the former UFC heavyweight champion might have been denied a famous victory on his first professional boxing outing, that stunning display has brought him ample reward; a WBC heavyweight ranking of 10th in the world and another chance to upset one of boxing’s big names in Anthony Joshua.

Friday’s bout in Saudi Arabia was something of a fallback option for Joshua, who had agreed to face Deontay Wilder before the American’s surprise defeat to Joseph Parker in December, but for Ngannou, it represents an incredible opportunity.

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In January, Turki Al-Sheikh – chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Entertainment and one of boxing’s foremost powerbrokers – said plans were in place for the fight’s victor to face the winner of Fury’s delayed undisputed title bout with Oleksandr Usyk.

Despite his relative inexperience in the ring, Ngannou is confident he can move into title contention by landing a seismic win, telling Sky Sports: “What I trained for Fury, the same will be for Joshua.

“I believe if I land on anyone, I will knock them out. The question is how to land? That’s the hardest thing.”

For Joshua, meanwhile, Friday’s fight could represent the final step on a long road back to the top of the heavyweight division.

While his 2019 defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. was viewed by many as a blip, back-to-back losses to Usyk in 2021 and 2022 were seen by some as the beginning of the end for the Brit, who was comfortably outboxed on both occasions.

Wins over Jermaine Franklin, Robert Helenius and Otto Wallin have put Joshua on course for another shot at regaining the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO belts he lost almost three years ago.

For promoter Eddie Hearn, the hope is that a Joshua victory tees up a long-awaited battle of the Brits, saying: “The dream for Joshua has always been to be undisputed champion.

“If AJ beats Ngannou and Fury beats Usyk, the whole world will be calling for Fury v Joshua. It’s probably one of the biggest fights in the history of the sport, certainly the biggest fight in boxing now.”

Joshua approaches Friday’s fight as the overwhelming favourite, but Fury did likewise last October before being stunned by Ngannou’s power. There will be no underestimation of Ngannou on Joshua’s behalf.

What they said

Joshua on whether facing a mixed martial artist is a “gimmick” fight:

“I was watching the Fury v Ngannou fight from home and from what I saw I thought he [Ngannou] won. It’s not a gimmick, it’s not something that’s benefiting the broadcasters, it’s not just a fight for entertainment purposes.

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

“Now I can see that there are certain fighters in the MMA world that can box, and he’s one of them. He’s got great potential to make waves.”

Ngannou on his approach to the bout:

“Everyone in this division can knock anyone out, but how do you land or carry that power and energy from the first round to the fifth round through to 10 rounds and still hit someone hard or knock somebody out after all the fatigue?

“It’s a chess game.”

When, where and how to watch

The full card from Riyadh can be streamed by DAZN subscribers in the UK, while Sky Sports are also showing the event on box office for a price of £19.95.

The card is due to begin at 17:00 UK time, with ring walks for the main event expected at around 22:30.

Full card

Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou (heavyweight)
Zhilei Zhang v Joseph Parker (WBO interim heavyweight title)
Rey Vargas v Nick Ball (WBC featherweight title)
Gavin Gwynne v Mark Chamberlain (lightweight)
Justis Huni v Kevin Lerena (heavyweight)
Jack McGann v TBC (super-welterweight)
Roman Fury v TBC (cruiserweight)


Defeat would be an unmitigated calamity for Joshua as he eyes that long-awaited meeting with Fury, or perhaps a trilogy bout with Usyk. While Ngannou shocked the world when he first stepped into the ring last October, there will be fewer surprises in store for Joshua.

As much as fans might want to see an all-out battle between two big hitters, Joshua will likely be cautious and use all his experience to keep Ngannou at range, not allowing his opponent to test his chin.

It may not be spectacular, but we’re backing Joshua to get over the line and keep his championship ambitions alive by winning on points.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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