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Anthony Joshua turns down ‘gimmick’ fight against Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou recently said he was interested in fighting Anthony Joshua in Africa later this year. Unfortunately, Joshua doesn’t sound interested in what he sees as a ‘gimmick’ fight.

Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua 2 - Clash on the Dunes, IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO World Heavyweight Title Fight Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

It looks like it’s back to the drawing board for Francis Ngannou and his team as far as finding a big name Heavyweight boxing opponent.

Following his big announcement that he signed a mixed martial arts (MMA) deal with Professional Fighter’s League (PFL), Ngannou went on a media tour to discuss the arrangement, which is expected to result in a cage fight sometime in 2024. “The Predator” is still hoping to box in 2023, and he’d specifically named British boxer, Anthony Joshua, as a possible opponent in Africa.

Now, Joshua’s manager, Eddie Hearn, is pouring cold water over that potential showdown. During an interview with Oscar Willis from The Mac Life, Hearn shared Joshua’s view of a Ngannou match. It was not exactly complimentary, and sat somewhere between “freak show” and “gimmick.”

“I think the Francis Ngannou fight happens in the Middle East,” Hearn said. “It’s a kind of ... not freak show, because Francis can box as well, but the big money comes there from the Middle East. And in August, it’s not really the time to do it [because of weather]. Mainly.

“I spoke to AJ about the fight,” Hearn continued. “He likes it and he gets it, but he’s very focused on his boxing career at the moment. And he doesn’t want to derail that to do something a little bit gimmicky. Even though it’s is dangerous, he wants to prepare for Deontay Wilder, and I think he doesn’t feel that Ngannou would prepare him for Deontay Wilder.

“I had two hours with Francis Ngannou in a meeting in Vegas,” Hearn added. “One of the most fascinating meetings I’ve ever had. His story is unbelievable. I found myself just asking question after question about his life and how he ended up where he did. I don’t think anyone can relate, it’s unbelievable. He’s a very tough man, and a huge man, and he will be in a huge fight, I’m sure.”

Once again, the shadow of a massive year-end event in Saudi Arabia is causing problems for Ngannou. The Saudis are working to put together Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk on the same night, and they’re ready to splash insane amounts of cash to do it.

The top four names in Heavyweight boxing are looking at that ... not Ngannou.

It was interesting to hear Hearn suggest that Ngannou will also fight in the Middle East, despite Francis’ statements about holding his boxing debut in Africa. We doubt Abu Dhabi is in the running given its close connections with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Has Ngannou had talks with Saudi Arabia? Could they help him sort out a big fight with the big payday he’s looking for, even if it’s against a lesser opponent?

As Hearn says, Ngannou has a big enough name that eventually he’ll get his huge boxing fight. But, with his last fight being the Ciryl Gane win back at the start of 2022, fans are getting impatient. Press releases about a 2024 MMA fight aren’t exactly exciting at this minute.

Are you feeling hopeful we’ll see Ngannou fight this year?

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