Anthony Joshua vs. Francis Ngannou Fight Preview & Predictions

by | Last updated Feb 23, 2024 | boxing

Anthony Joshua (27-3, 24 KOs) vs. Francis Ngannou (0-1)
When: Friday, March 8, 2024
Where: Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Weight Class: Heavyweight: 10 Rounds

Betting Odds: Anthony Joshua (-485), Francis Ngannou (+320)—Odds by Bovada

Fight Analysis:

Former Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua takes on former UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou in an important ten-round bout in Riyadh on March 8. Joshua is looking to get back in position to land a title shot, while Ngannou is looking for his first win in a sport where he is new but has shown enormous potential. For him to drop and so greatly trouble champion Tyson Fury in his first try at this new sport was really something to see. Can Joshua do better, or will we see Ngannou use that terrific punching power to score what would really be a huge win?

While you could say that Joshua is not as good as Tyson Fury, he might actually be a tougher opponent for Ngannou. While more vulnerable in certain areas, Joshua is more of a professional. When he steps into the ring for this fight, Ngannou won’t be able to rely on apathy or a lack of conditioning. He is in a way victimized by performing so well against Fury in October, as subsequent opponents won’t be caught sleeping. And after seeing what he can do, I’d expect Joshua to prepare accordingly.

With Joshua, we now have a fighter who is already 34, and while three years younger than Ngannou, he seems more toward the end-stage of his career. I think people have been too hard on Joshua. He had one loss before meeting Oleksandr Usyk, a loss that he avenged. And as time goes on, maybe losing to Usyk, even twice, won’t be the black eye that it now appears to be on his record. And with the boxing mastery of Usyk, Joshua won’t have to worry about fighting an ultra-educated boxer in this fight.

There are two schools of thought regarding Ngannou’s maiden voyage into the waters of world-class boxing. For a debuting pro boxer to take on the world heavyweight champion, drop him, and lose a controversial decision speaks for itself. And if it weren’t for us trying to handicap a fight, we’d be foolish to try to throw any shade on that feat. But alas, we are breaking down a fight, so we need to entertain the possibility that Ngannou’s success was a bit of a mirage. In other words, we already knew he could fight, as he’s a UFC heavyweight champion, and his calling card was punching power, something that should translate to boxing. But Fury had clearly phoned in his preparation, arriving to the ring overweight and unprepared for the task that lied ahead. I’d anticipate he will not get the same cooperation from Joshua.

Bet on who wins, durations, TKO Y/N? and more at Bovada!

But while not versed in the rhythms of boxing, the pace, the structure, and the flow, Ngannou has the trump-card, which is his punching power. While not featuring a glass chin, Joshua has been stopped before and hurt in other fights. Fury had to call on his otherworldly recuperative abilities and durability to see himself through his fight with Ngannou. How sure can we be about how Joshua responds if he gets clobbered by one of Ngannou’s swats?

Still, the concerns go the other way, as well. Ngannou was able to hang in there with an out-of-shape Fury, a version of the champion who may have perceived Ngannou as a gimmick, being that MMA fighters transitioning to boxing never seemed to really work out. Considering what Fury has gone through in the ring, you could almost understand him taking Ngannou lightly. Joshua will not. The former Olympic champion and unified heavyweight champion has no leash left. Another loss sends him careening off a cliff in his career. His back is against the wall. He has scored three wins to restore his confidence after the second Usyk defeat. The winner of this gets a fight against a champion, so any of the things Ngannou relied on to do so well against Fury won’t all be present for this particular matchup.

I think Joshua’s vulnerability and dodgy punch resistance make it so Ngannou has a real shot in this fight. With continued training, you’d assume he’s getting better, and maybe taking on a big name in Joshua, whose best fighting is in the rearview, is a good spot for him. But while not wanting to get caught being hung up on some deep-seated boxing bias, I can’t help but think that every other facet of this fight lines up in Joshua’s favor. And with Ngannou not having the chops on defense and just not being the most educated boxer, Joshua’s all-around game could really have an impact. And that’s not to say that Fury’s sloppy form and non-sharp mental status for their fight were the only things responsible for Ngannou’s success. The man has skills, can hit, and really didn’t look all that out-of-place. But that a more conditioned and on-point top heavyweight could bring more of Ngannou’s inadequacies to light.

Ngannou is not a lost cause in this fight. He matches up well physically with Joshua and is even a little bigger overall, though a little shorter. I just think that what worked so well against an out-of-shape Fury who wasn’t putting forth a big workload might look a little different against an in-shape and desperate Joshua, who is unveiling all his offense and skill. Joshua can be gotten and if looking for a pick against him, a fierce-hitting guy like Ngannou is going to carry a lot of appeal. But with Joshua knowing what he’s facing, I’d expect an on-point, boxing-heavy approach with a lot of movement. And in that sense, I see the skill of Joshua being too much. I’m taking Joshua in this one.

My Prediction to Win the Fight:
I’m betting on Anthony Joshua at -485 odds. While far from a foolproof proposition in 2024, Joshua’s combination of power and skill, combined with him having zero margin for error in this fight and his career sets up well for a good showing from him in a dangerous fight he should win easily if he stays out of trouble.