Anthony Joshua wants a piece of Francis Ngannou next.
That’s according to Joshua’s promoter, Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn, who admitted Monday on The MMA Hour that Ngannou’s stunning performance against Tyson Fury has turned boxing’s heavyweight division on its head. With Fury now likely fighting Oleksandr Usyk in a title unification bout sometime in early 2024, Hearn believes Ngannou vs. Joshua is not only the obvious fight to make next, but is also a genuine blockbuster matchup.
“It’s difficult to say [Ngannou is] not a world-class fighter, because I feel like he just beat Tyson Fury,” Hearn said. “But I look at it now, and we had a meeting — me and Francis — about, I don’t know, five or six months ago, and he asked me to make the Anthony Joshua fight. And I went back to AJ and I said, ‘Look, I’ve met with Francis Ngannou, what a lovely gentlemen, what do you think?’ And he went, ‘I’m not interested. I don’t like the gimmick stuff. I just want to win the world heavyweight championship.’ So I’m like, OK.
“Now I’m looking at it and I’m thinking, Francis Ngannou against Anthony Joshua, perhaps in Africa, perhaps the Rumble in the Jungle 2, is one of the biggest fights in the history of the sport. And I promise you this, respect to Francis — easy work for my man [Joshua]. And I know you’re getting a little high right now, I know the MMA world is just walking in the clouds, but we’ll bring it straight back down to reality.”
Ngannou shocked the combat sports world this past Saturday with a performance that nearly defied belief. Competing in his professional boxing debut, the former UFC heavyweight champion pushed Fury to his limits and even knocked down boxing’s lineal heavyweight king en route to a controversial split decision loss in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Ngannou is now perhaps the hottest name in all of combat sports, and Hearn believes it is imperative that the Cameroonian slugger’s next move is not a backward step.
“I saw some comments today online, people saying, ‘You know, Ngannou should come back with a follow-up fight with a lower-level opponent.’ Bad idea,” Hearn said. “Really, really bad idea. Because there is a chance that he got lucky on Saturday night, in some respects. You can’t take away from the performance. But trust me when I say, he can get beat by any heavyweight in the top 50 in the world. I promise. That showing on Saturday, maybe he could beat them. The risk of that, all you have to do if you’re Francis Ngannou now is you have to rematch Tyson Fury or you have to fight Anthony Joshua.
“I’ve been in touch with some of those guys and people in Saudi Arabia as well, and if Usyk has to fight Fury, which I believe he will — AJ against Francis Ngannou, and the winner fights the winner of the other fight. And listen, if Francis Ngannou … beats Anthony Joshua, he should fight for the world heavyweight title in two fights. So that way you’re getting the credibility. AJ against Ngannou is absolutely massive. Massive. Two giants next to each other. And who knows what’s going to happen. I can’t even believe we’re debating this on a Monday morning, but fair play to your boy. He pulled it out the bed. He didn’t fumble it.”
Ngannou said Monday on The MMA Hour that he is undecided regarding his next step. Saudi royal adviser Turki Alalshikh has already submitted a bid to retain the heavyweight for his next boxing match following the Fury loss, however both Ngannou and PFL founder Donn Davis also entertained the idea of a bout against Deontay Wilder under the PFL banner, whether that’s under MMA rules, boxing rules, or a rule set mixing the two.
Hearn may be biased toward his client, but he views the Wilder fight as a mistake.
“I’m not being funny. Have you seen his legs? If Francis Ngannou kicked Deontay Wilder’s legs, they would literally snap in half,” Hearn said. “Like, Wilder is a boxer, very dangerous boxer, very exciting boxer, very talented boxer. Listen, the money for Francis Ngannou now in boxing, he ain’t going back [to MMA]. He ain’t going back. The money that I know that AJ against Ngannou could generate … [it’d be] a lot more than he got on Saturday.
“AJ is a global superstar. Deontay Wilder is a solid name, big name in America — ish — through the Fury fights. Not anywhere near the same level. You’re talking about a two-time heavyweight world champion. You’re talking about a guy that has endorsement deals, broadcast deals all over the world. It’s a monstrous fight. And you know the mad thing? The really mad thing? When the bookmakers price that fight up, they’ll make it competitive.”
Joshua, 34, has won bouts over Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius since suffering back-to-back setbacks against Usyk in 2021-22. The Olympic gold medalist owns past victories over Wladimir Klitschko, Dillian Whyte, Joseph Parker, and Andy Ruiz over his 29-fight professional career, and Hearn is confident he could easily add Ngannou to that list.
“Listen, [Ngannou] can punch, there’s no doubt,” Hearn said. “Fury, I think his resistance isn’t what it was. It was a good shot to the top of the head, but nothing major. Take my money and I will show you what happens when Anthony Joshua fights Francis Ngannou. I said [Ngannou lasts] three rounds on Saturday. I’ll be a little bit more generous — six rounds.”