By George Gigney


WHEN a fighter, particularly one as large as Francis Ngannou, is so brutally separated from their senses as the Cameroonian was by Anthony Joshua at the weekend, it’s very easy to get caught up in absolutes.

The old ‘AJ’ is back. Joshua is the most dangerous heavyweight on the planet. This means nothing, because Ngannou is a two-fight novice. Joshua just proved that Tyson Fury is a fraud.

All of those statements have been made, in some variation, by fans, promoters and members of the media since Joshua detonated a monstrous right hand on Ngannou’s usually rock-solid chin and rendered him unconscious on Friday night. And that’s somewhat understandable; it was a truly stunning knockout and one that sparked a frenzy online.

But, as ever, the truth doesn’t lie at either end of the spectrum of opinion – it’s closer to the middle. Yes, Joshua was facing probably the easiest opponent of his professional career. But it’s still true that all throughout fight week and in the ring, he looked calm, confident and dialled in. The past few years have been difficult for Joshua’s career and his demeanour had changed. But this fight experience has highlighted that he appears to have turned a corner, that his head is where it needs to be in order to get the best results.

And yes, Joshua’s demolition of Ngannou certainly casts an even more negative light on Fury’s laboured performance against the former UFC champion last year. But, when we look back on the careers of Fury and Joshua long after they’ve retired, we won’t be focusing on how they looked in glorified exhibition cash-grabs. We’ll look at what they did in the fights that [i]matter[i].

Fury was, of course, ringside for Joshua-Ngannou and images of his reaction to the knockout spread like wildfire on social media with countless people – including Carl Froch – claiming he looked shell shocked and nervous. That ignores the fact that Fury had one of the more reasonable reactions to Joshua’s win. In several interviews after the fight he outlined how that was how a boxer “should have” dealt with an MMA fighter and how his own performance against Francis was “s***.” He heaped praise on Joshua.

Perhaps the only absolute to truly be nailed home last Friday night was just how dangerous boxing is. As Ngannou lay horizontal on the canvas, unmoving, there was an immediate fear that he had been irreparably damaged. It took a long time for him to get back to his feet. Thankfully he was OK and it’s testament to his character that he attended the post-fight press conference alongside Joshua and was even able to joke about being so brutally knocked out.

It’s something that Don McRae so brilliantly summarised in a post-fight thinkpiece for The Guardian: that this knockout “was as shocking as it was predictable.” We really should have seen this coming. The broadcasters airing Joshua-Ngannou – Sky Sports and DAZN – got caught up in the mirage that had been created after Fury’s no-show against Ngannou. When analysing Joshua-Ngannou before the fight, the question they kept asking was “what might Ngannou do to Joshua?” There was no consideration of the inverse of that question, perhaps because it would dissipate some of the intrigue around the bout.

After the fact, Sky in particular were quick to try and challenge any claims that Ngannou was always going to be an easy night’s work for Joshua. Their argument was that Ngannou’s performance against Fury was enough evidence to prove that he was a worthy opponent for the former two-time heavyweight champion of the world. When you think about it, we still really don’t know what Ngannou’s level is. The loss to Fury suggested he is much better than we all previously assumed, while the defeat to Joshua could highlight that he never should have been allowed to fight either of them, such is his inexperience.

But people are allowed to change their opinions based on what they see. There will be plenty who considered Ngannou a dangerous opponent for Joshua because he did so well against Fury, only to come away from Friday night thinking that Francis is, in fact, just a novice in over his head.

What was an undeniable success from this show – and something the broadcasters were smart to focus on – is how Fury and Joshua are now even more inextricably linked to one another. It was a shrewd move to match Joshua with Ngannou, particularly off the back of his impressive performance against another previous Fury victim, Otto Wallin. The comparison of Fury and Joshua’s respective performances against those opponents has dominated the discussion over the past few days. Should Fury defeat Oleksandr Usyk on May 18 (and then again in a mandated rematch), a fight between him and Joshua would be monumental. That potential superfight lost a fair bit of its shine when Joshua twice lost to Usyk, but it’s once again a juggernaut of an event.

Please, please don’t let it be in Saudi Arabia though. For one, a megafight between two British fighters should absolutely take place in the UK, preferably at Wembley, one of the most famous stadiums in the world. Secondly, there’s the sportswashing of it all. And third, these events in Saudi are just so unbelievably long. The Joshua-Ngannou card went on for over seven hours. Seven. And most of that time was made up of people talking, rather than punching one another.

Boxing on the Box


March 16

Callum Walsh-Dauren Yeleussinov

UFC Fight Pass

Coverage begins at 12am

Nathan Heaney-Brad Pauls

TNT Sports 1

Coverage begins at 7pm

March 17

William Zepeda-Maxi Hughes


Coverage begins at 12am