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Can wrecking machine Ngannou shock AJ and the world today?

By primenewsghana
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How is it that a human-being constructed like Francis Ngannou can enter a fist fight as something of an enigma? It is right there staring you in the face, no veil to his threat nor any secrets as to where the danger lies. And yet mystery remains. A glaring 'if' remains.

Maybe the challenge facing Anthony Joshua is being over-sold? Maybe too much stock in the Ngannou power is a disservice to that of Joshua? Maybe Joshua resigns his counterpart to boxing irrelevance? Maybe he doesn't. Maybe the Ngannou story takes another historic turn.

Regardless, there can be no denying the weight of the UFC star's split-decision defeat to Tyson Fury in October, and the emphatic third-round knockdown that has since teed up Friday's main event quite beautifully. What happens if he lands the same crashing left hand on Joshua? And what if he barely lays a glove on Joshua? Stay tuned.

The fight aesthetics are chiselled to perfection. You look right and gawp at Francis Ngannou, in awe of the cannon-fisted colossus grinning down the camera lense. Only to then look left and be reminded that Anthony Joshua is even bigger, coupled with the knowledge he is also twice as fast. Makes for quite the double take.

One big shot. What if Ngannou lands his one big shot? Does he pack more than one big shot with which to trouble Joshua? He is a proposition of intrigue, carved like a God and oozing with the confidence of a man that believes wholeheartedly he belongs on this stage.

"The flaming ferocious fists of Francis will finish Anthony Joshua," said Ngannou's trainer Dewey Cooper, on more than one occasion this week.

Matthew Macklin forwarded Wladimir Klitschko as perhaps the closest comparison when it comes to previous Joshua opponents of a similar size to Ngannou; Andy Clarke suggested Ngannou's default instinct to match fire with fire if caught by a Joshua shot might feel similar to that of Andy Ruiz Jr, whose success against AJ had been built on his ability to throw back immediately after being hurt.

And there may come the quandary staring at Joshua. Hurt him, and then what? Does the former unified world champion pounce on a wounded Ngannou in search of the finish while knowing it is in his opponent's nature to strike back with a vengeance? Or does he temper the aggression and keep the distance long in aid of wearing his rival out in the later rounds?

"We look at the size, the build, the weight. The size of that guy, a freak of nature, a big, strong, unit," said Sky Sports Boxing's Johnny Nelson. "He may not be as fast as Fury but everything else is in proportion.

"I don't think AJ is going to be able to hurt or knock him out. Everything about Ngannou says hard work written all over him. All he's got going for him as far as I'm concerned is punch power, against somebody who has done it all. I don't think any of us think he's going to do anything else but land one powerful shot, and it's how Joshua reacts to that shot.

"If AJ does hurt he's got to keep his ego in check, don't get greedy, don't get giddy."

Joshua boasts the elite cocktail of speed, boxing footwork, ring IQ, stamina, shot selection and combination work amid something of a relaunch back towards world title territory after ruthless knockout wins over Robert Helenius and Otto Wallin in response to his setbacks against Oleksandr Usyk.

Fury, too, had arrived with vastly-superior boxing nous and experience with which to govern his opponent, only to encounter an unfazed, ungoverned Ngannou. The UFC champion saw Fury's feints and movement, and raised a world-stopping knockdown in reply. He couldn't finish it then; could he now?


"We told him he would drop Tyson, he knew it and told him," said Ngannou's trainer Dewey Cooper.

"Francis gave 80 per cent, we held back 20, we went a safe route. Had it been a six-round fight we'd have said 'Francis go get him!' but it was 10 rounds.

"We had to play it safe, it was his first outing. This time, that won't be the case."

Ngannou will preach an improved boxing ability, as he should, but on Friday it will be his power once again that serves as his undisputed ally. Fury recalled how he had landed full-flush shots and even an elbow to Ngannou during their fight last year, only to be met by a brick wall refusal to budge.

Now it is the turn of Joshua, who may not possess the same sleight of hand deception as a Fury but will believe he packs a meatier punch.

"There's probably a false sense of confidence taken from the previous fight, I think it will be a completely different situation," said Joshua's trainer Ben Davison. "We've prepared for him respectfully, professionally.

"Nobody knew what to expect last time, everybody was dismissive, now we know that's not the case. Yes you can say there's a lot of experience to have been taken last time, but I still think it's going to be a whole new experience."

Ngannou wants to crash the party in more ways than one. He trudged across from MMA to boxing to channel his childhoods dreams, demanding an audience with the world champion and coming close to staging the biggest dethroning in history.

Now he challenges Joshua with ambitions of delivering another crushing blow to the prospects of an all-British showdown for the ages against Fury. A steely-eyed AJ, though, has cut the figure of a man in no mood to let unlikely storylines prevail this week.

"I've never seen him punching with such ferocity and such confidence, I believe he's the best heavyweight in the world," said Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn. "I believe he will be undisputed world heavyweight champion.

"We respect Francis and what he did, we didn't give him any chance against Fury, but I thought he was sensational. He earned everybody's respect that night.

"You know the success he had against Tyson Fury and the confidence he will have, this is a real fighter in and out of the ring. You've got to put him out of the boxing game on Friday night."

A billing of Knockout Chaos will be fitting for a collision between two of the most spiteful hitters on the planet.

Joshua comes in 27-3, riding a new wave of momentum and knowing victory could yet swing the door open towards an undisputed world title shot that might have felt a long way away when he relinquished his titles to Usyk. Ngannou meanwhile steps inside the ring for just the second time as a professional, with the boxing world waiting anxiously to see how he builds on a staggering debut performance against Fury.

Riyadh is ready. For what exactly, it isn't quite sure.

When is the fight and how can I book?

The event will start at 4pm, Friday March 8 on Sky Sports Box Office (Sky channel 491) and Sky Sports Box Office HD (Sky channel 492). The event is priced at £19.95 for Sky customers in the UK, €24.95 for Sky customers in the Republic of Ireland up until midnight on Thursday March 7.