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Joshua says he ‘never left’ boxing’s top tier after Ngannou bout made

Anthony Joshua declared he has never left the elite level of heavyweight boxing as he looked ahead to his eagerly anticipated clash with Francis Ngannou in March.

Joshua will face former UFC Heavyweight Champion Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on March 8, after the 37-year-old mixed martial artist almost stunned undefeated WBC belt-holder Tyson Fury on his professional boxing debut last October.

After that bout was made earlier this week, promoter Frank Warren suggested the victor could earn a meeting with either Fury or Oleksandr Usyk, who are due to face off in a huge unification fight on February 17.

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A shot at regaining the belts he lost in 2021 could be seen as a return to the big time for Joshua, but the two-time heavyweight champion says he never left the top tier despite being humbled by back-to-back losses to Usyk.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Joshua declared: “I’ve never left! I’ll always be there.

“From the minute I’ve laced up these gloves from the amateurs until now, I’ve managed to keep my name at the top of the amateur scene and then the professional scene.

“It’s just the truth, it’s how it is, and I think it’ll be that way until I don’t want to fight anymore.”

Earlier this week, Ngannou, who floored Fury on his boxing bow but went on to suffer a controversial split-decision defeat, predicted he would make Joshua look “ordinary” when the pair face off.

Joshua, however, has warned his opponent that plenty of other fighters have made big statements before coming unstuck against him, saying: “It’s always easier said than done.

“I look through a lot of my fights and what people have said. Let’s just look at my most recent one with my last opponent [Otto Wallin]…

“[He says] I’m this, I’m that, and I broke his eye socket and broke his nose and sent him packing after five rounds.

“You can say what you want to say but when leather starts landing, I think people do think differently about their approach.”

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