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Joyce: ‘Wild card’ Ngannou can hurt AJ

Before Francis Ngannou crossed over to compete in boxing, Joe Joyce knew first hand that the UFC heavyweight champion could be a problem.

In Las Vegas the two men engaged in a ferocious sparring session.

“Because he’s an MMA fighter and he’s not really been concentrating on boxing, he was a little bit more open and I could kind of see where the shots were coming from, move out the way and keep him on the jab. But them power shots are whistling past my abs and my chin in the process!” Joyce laughed.

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A look back some of the most destructive stoppages from Anthony Joshua’s explosive career.

“But we had a really good spar and I’ve got a lot of respect for Ngannou.”

He is persuaded that Ngannou can hurt Joshua when they fight on Friday March 8, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

“Of course. If he lands one of those big shots like he hit Fury with then I don’t think Joshua’s going to get up from that,” the Londoner told Sky Sports.

“He [Joshua] will probably be cagey in there. I think it’s going to be a good fight. As a match up they’ve both got power. I think it’s a great fight.

“He boxed really well against Fury. It’s an amazing story,” Joyce added. “Reached the heights of UFC and then challenged arguably the best in Tyson Fury and gave him a run for his money. He’s a bit of a wild card.”

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Francis Ngannou shows off his punching power, scoring 999 on a boxing machine ahead of his heavyweight clash with Anthony Joshua live on Sky Sports Box Office.

The chief support on the Joshua-Ngannou bill will be the heavyweight clash between Joseph Parker and Zhilei Zhang. Joyce has fought both men, scoring a devastating win over Parker, before suffering two crushing defeats to Zhang.

Parker bounced back from his loss to Joyce to beat Deontay Wilder and the Briton is looking forward to seeing whether he can maintain that momentum against Zhang.

“He’s a younger fighter than Zhang, if he can push him to those later rounds and Zhang gets tired that’s when you’ll see Parker put some shots together and he could potentially knock him out,” Joyce said.

“Parker can be a bit more of a mover, Zhang’s feet are very static but he holds that power and speed. He’s tough as well. So Parker’s going to have to box in and out. Maybe he’s better at fighting southpaws than me.

“If I was a betting man I would probably bet on Zhang. But I would like to see Parker win.”

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Following his devastating loss to Zhilei Zhang, Anthony Yarde believes Joe Joyce could revitalise his career with another win over former foe Daniel Dubois.

Joyce will box Kash Ali in a comeback fight on March 16 and wants to work his way back to world level competition this year.

“It’s all happening at heavyweight,” he said. “I think against any of those top names that we just mentioned would be great. A rematch with Parker, rematch with [Daniel] Dubois. There’s Wilder, Joshua, Fury, [Oleksandr] Usyk… I can box everybody.

“It’s the entertainment business and there’s plenty of good fights you’d like to see me in.”

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

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