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Joshua v Ngannou: Fight preview, how to watch and prediction

Let’s get ready to rumble.

On his professional boxing debut, mixed martial arts great Francis Ngannou almost caused one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history last year, knocking undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury down in a debateable split-decision defeat.

That stunning display put Ngannou’s name on everyone’s lips, with the WBC taking the unprecedented step of handing Ngannou a ranking of 10th in the heavyweight division despite him not having a win to his name.

On Friday, he has a second chance to upset one of boxing’s big names, as he takes on Anthony Joshua in Riyadh.

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The fight in Saudi Arabia was something of a fallback option for Joshua, who had agreed to face Deontay Wilder this year, only for the American’s surprise defeat to Joseph Parker to leave those plans in tatters.

For Ngannou, however, it represents an incredible opportunity just two fights into his professional boxing career.

Turki Al-Sheikh – the chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Entertainment and one of boxing’s foremost powerbrokers – has said plans are in place for the fight’s victor to face the winner of Fury’s delayed undisputed title bout with Oleksandr Usyk. Ngannou believes he has more than a puncher’s chance of a transformative win.

“What I trained for Fury, the same will be for Joshua,” Ngannou told Sky Sports earlier this week. “I believe if I land on anyone, I will knock them out. The question is how to land? That’s the hardest thing.”

Joshua, meanwhile, will view the fight as the final step on a long road back to the top of heavyweight boxing, with back-to-back defeats to Usyk in 2021 and 2022 having put him in the wilderness.

Wins over Jermaine Franklin, Robert Helenius and Otto Wallin have put Joshua back on course for a title shot, and promoter Eddie Hearn hopes Friday’s fight is the precursor to a long-awaited clash with Fury.

“The dream for Joshua has always been to be undisputed champion,” Hearn said. “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 is the clear favourite, but Ngannou excelled under similar circumstances against Fury last year. Can the MMA great go one step further this time around to send shockwaves through the sport, or will Joshua put himself back in the big time?

What’s been said?

Joshua: This is no gimmick fight

“I was watching the Fury v Ngannou fight 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. He’s got great potential to make waves.”

Ngannou: It’s a game of chess

“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.”

How can I watch?

Friday’s 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 event will begin at 17:00 UK time, with ring walks for the main event expected at around 22:30.

Who else is in action?

The full card for the event is as listed below, though some bouts are subject to late changes.

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)

Fight prediction

Plenty of talk in the build-up to Friday’s fight has focused on Ngannou’s raw power – if he can test Joshua’s chin, can the Brit hold firm?

The more pertinent question, however, is whether Ngannou will even get the chance to land any big hits. Joshua was criticised for being overly cautious in his defeats to Usyk, who is an outstanding technician, but given Ngannou’s lack of experience in the ring, that approach may just pay dividends on Friday.

This might not be what fans want to hear, but don’t be surprised if Joshua takes his time, keeping Ngannou at range with superior footwork and avoiding too many risks. It was a split decision which denied Ngannou against Fury, and we expect him to face a similar fate here.

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