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AJ vs Ngannou – the crossover super-fight explained

We answer the key questions ahead of the crossover super-fight between Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou, which is live on Sky Sports Box Office.

What is happening?

Anthony Joshua will fight Francis Ngannou on Friday March 8 in a non-title contest.

Joshua is the former two-time unified WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight champion, who is currently on a three-fight winning streak and looking to work his way back into title contention.

Ngannou is the star of mixed martial arts who was the UFC heavyweight champion before he made a move into boxing. This will be just his second professional boxing bout.

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Ahead of their bout on March 8 in Saudi Arabia, Joshua and Ngannou discuss their ambition and excitement for the fight

He’s only had one fight?

In boxing, yes. And he didn’t win it. But he is an MMA veteran. And although he’s only had that one previous boxing bout, he made quite possibly the greatest pro boxing debut of all time.

In a non-title bout in October he went in with Tyson Fury, the WBC heavyweight champion who many regard as the division’s No 1. Ngannou shockingly knocked Fury down and pushed him close in the contest, only losing by split decision.

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The fighting talk began as Joshua and Ngannou went head to head ahead their fight on March 8 in Saudi Arabia

What’s at stake?

The soul of the entire sport of boxing? Imagine if an MMA fighter, with an 0-1 boxing record, took down one of boxing’s biggest superstars‚Ķ

That aside, if Ngannou were to win, or even to put in as creditable a performance against Joshua as he did against Fury, he would open up a hugely-lucrative future in which he could compete at the top of both boxing and MMA.

Joshua cannot afford to lose. He is plotting a course towards another world title shot but defeat in this contest would slam the door shut on those ambitions.

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Liam Smith says former UFC champion Ngannou would need to do something ‘out of the ordinary’ to beat Joshua

What do they say?

Anthony Joshua said: “He brings two arms, a body, like every other fighter does. It’s just his mind that’s different to everyone.

“He’s seen people like me, I’ve seen people like him many times before, but it’s just his mind I have to conquer in the ring.

“You have to take someone’s soul, you have to take their spirit and I’m looking forward to the challenge for sure.

“It’s going to be good, it’s going to be explosive.”

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Andy Scott, Gary Logan and Jane Couch discuss whether Ngannou knocking down Tyson Fury was the biggest shock in 2023

Francis Ngannou said: “I’m going to fight him, so what do you think I’m going to do? I’m going to look for his chin.

“That’s what happens in the fight. In the fight you try to hit somebody in the chin or wherever you can hit them.

“And then, yes, I heard that he doesn’t have a chin. I don’t know if it’s true or not.

“We’re going to find out. I hope I have the opportunity to test that out, that’s my wish.”

Who’s on the undercard?

After upsetting Deontay Wilder (and derailing the planned Joshua vs Wilder fight), New Zealand’s Joseph Parker will take on fearsome heavyweight Zhilei Zhang, who twice stopped Joe Joyce last year to win and retain the WBO interim strap.

Britain’s unbeaten Nick Ball will also box Rey Vargas for the WBC featherweight title.

As well as up-and-coming prospects Justis Huni, Jack McGann and Roman Fury (Tyson’s brother), Mark Chamberlain will challenge Gavin Gwynne for the European title.

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Watch Ngannou’s explosive striking in the UFC. Does he have what it takes to beat Joshua?

Where does the winner go?

The Joshua-Ngannou victor will be highly ranked with the world title sanctioning bodies.

Already Joshua is the No 1 contender with the WBO (behind champion Oleksandr Usyk and interim titlist Zhang), No 2 with the WBA, No 3 with the IBF currently and No 1 with the WBC.

Ngannou’s efforts against Fury also earned him a No 10 ranking with the WBC.

The winner of this fight would also be the most high profile heavyweight alongside Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, a status which will create further opportunities.

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Fury gives a list of his next opponents after dismissing suggestions he is thinking of retiring

Fury and Usyk, who between them hold the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF titles, fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship on May 18. While there might be a wait – with Fury and Usyk currently expected to box twice – the AJ-Ngannou winner could still be well on course to fight the Fury-Usyk victor in the months to come.

Watch Joshua vs Ngannou live on Sky Sports Box Office on Friday March 8

Sky News
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