Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn has his eye on Francis Ngannou as the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight champion plots a move into the boxing world. Not only is he interested in the heavy hitter, he has a pretty solid pitch on why “The Predator” should fight Anthony Joshua rather than wait around for a fight that may (or may not) materialize against lineal champion, Tyson Fury.
When asked on The MMA Hour whether he’d spoken with Ngannou, Hearn said, “Yes.”
“I think he’s an outstanding man,” he said. “I always talk too much and I don’t want to talk too much about what was said. I’m fascinated by people who have almost self-educated themselves to a point where you can have a conversation with a fighter or an athlete themselves more productive than with an agent or a manager.
“I reached out to Francis just to say, ‘Look, I just want to know, I’m getting all these approaches from people [claiming], ‘I represent Francis Ngannou,’” Hearn added. “‘Just tell me who I need to speak to.’ And the answer was, ‘Me.’ I really like that.
“We didn’t go too deeply into stuff, but I respect him greatly for the way he’s handled his career to a point where now he’s in a fantastic position,” Hearn continued. “He has a new ocean to navigate now, which is a lot more rocky than the world of MMA and the UFC, that he’s in the wild west of boxing. And I feel like he probably wants to build a team of people around him that makes sure he can successfully navigate that ocean and maximize his potential. And we’ll see what happens.”
Reading between the lines, it’s clear that Hearn wants to help Ngannou navigate those waters. He made the offer explicit by offering Ngannou a fight with Joshua, whom Hearn has promoted for years.
“For me, we would love to be involved in his career,” Hearn said. “The Anthony Joshua fight is just probably one of the biggest fights that could be made across any kind of sport. Obviously, the Tyson Fury fight is there for him as well. But, I was pretty captivated by him. I’m not a massive MMA fan, but I still respect what he’s achieved there. I just found him to be an outstanding gentleman. So, we’ll see where it goes.”
The Joshua fight is big, but not as big as a Fury fight. However, Joshua is right there and ready to go unlike Fury, who is in the middle of setting up a spring fight against Oleksandr Usyk (details here). That timeline might still work for Ngannou, who needs to, y’know, learn how to box professionally over the next several months. But, there’s a very realistic possibility that Fury and Usyk will rematch after their first fight ... and maybe even again after their second.
Hearn brought up the possibility that Ngannou could end up on the sidelines waiting for a long time, missing his chance to strike while the iron is hot.
“We’ll talk, and ultimately ... he’s going to have a lot of opportunities presented to him,” the Matchroom Boxing owner said. “It’s down to himself about which opportunities he wants to take and who he trusts to move forward. Because like I told him: in boxing, you can waste your time. You can go through months of negotiations with the wrong people. Next thing, a deal’s done, the contract’s breached, an escrow fallen through, and you’ve wasted six months of the year.
“So, he has a golden opportunity now to really solidify himself financially and many generations beyond by being part of an event that would be really one of the biggest in fight sports for sure,” Hearn added.
Hearn also exhibited a fundamental understanding of what makes a fight like Ngannou versus Joshua interesting.
“The value really is the unknown: what happens when two titans from the world of fight sports collide,” he said. “UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and the two-time world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua. It’s a complete unknown. The unknown of how good is Francis Ngannou? We know he punches extremely hard. If he lands one on Anthony Joshua, is it the greatest upset of all time? Or A.J. completely steamrolls him, and you’ll see Francis Ngannou get knocked out. That’s the attraction of that fight. The unknown.
“For me, if I’m representing Francis Ngannou, I want to make sure that this next move, I maximize every dollar that’s out there,” Hearn concluded. “He’s done the hard work, he’s done the years of hustle. He’s done the work to get himself in a position that he move through what he wants to do to take control of his career. And now the freedom he has to do that must be incredibly motivating and enjoyable for him.”