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Anthony Joshua to face Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia

Anthony Joshua will face former UFC champion Francis Ngannou in a heavyweight clash in Saudi Arabia on March 8.

Ngannou, who vacated his UFC Heavyweight belt when he failed to reach an agreement on a new contract with the company last January, switched disciplines to make his professional boxing debut in October.

The 37-year-old impressed against undefeated WBC Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury, flooring the Gypsy King in the third round but suffering a controversial split-decision defeat.

That performance, which saw one judge award the fight to Ngannou by a score of 95-94, led the WBC to rank the Cameroonian-French mixed martial artist 10th in the heavyweight division.

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Speculation had suggested Ngannou could be Joshua’s next opponent after Deontay Wilder – who was previously expected to face the Brit this year – suffered a shock defeat to Joseph Parker in December.

Joshua stopped Otto Wallin on the same card to make it three successive victories since he suffered back-to-back defeats against Oleksandr Usyk in 2021 and 2022.

Joshua had previously described a potential meeting with Ngannou as a “gimmick fight”. However, when speaking alongside his rival at a press conference on Monday, the Brit was more convinced of the bout’s worth.

“It’s going to be good, it’s going to be explosive. There are many ways to skin a cat,” Joshua said.

“I can counter-punch, he can counter-punch. We can both box, as he’s proven himself, we can both trade. It’s going to be a good, good fight.”

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, meanwhile, suggested Ngannou had done enough to beat Fury on his last outing.

“I didn’t take him seriously, if I’m honest, but I’ve never known anybody waltz into another sport and, in my opinion, because it was very close… he beat Tyson Fury that night,” Hearn said of Ngannou.

“It’s never been done before. He might be unlucky that he’s not sitting here as the lineal world heavyweight champion.”

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