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Is Francis Ngannou the Biggest Challenge for Anthony Joshua? 2X World Champion Answers

Published 02/19/2024, 2:18 PM EST

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Anthony Joshua is on the path to regain his championship titles. While he does that, many, including Lennox Lewis, believe that his upcoming matchup against novice boxer Francis Ngannou is a ‘gimmick’. With no titles at stake for ‘AJ’, it might seem like one. However, maintaining his position on this proposition, the heavyweight has clarified what the fight actually means for him.

Come March 8, the Londoner will face off against his Cameroonian-French opponent as a part of the ongoing Riyadh Season at the majestic Kingdom Arena. For AJ, this fight comes at a crucial point. After having lifted his career from shambles last year, he is powering through toward becoming a champion again, a prestige he lost to Oleksandr Usyk in their 2021-22 fights. For the 37-year-old, Ngannou, the picture is bigger. He undertakes his second boxing stint against another elite fighter of the division, marking his direct entry into the big leagues. Now he has the prove his performance against the Gypsy King wasn’t just beginner’s luck. With such significance, is the ‘Knockout Chaos’ the biggest challenge for AJ?

Not a Gimmick Fight!

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Ahead of their massive entertainer, the two fighters sat down face-to-face with DAZN for a tête-à-tête. Ade Oladipo, the man who spearheaded the conversation, quizzed 34-year-old Joshua on what the fight meant to him. The interviewer threw in phrases like ‘gimmick fight’ to stir the pot. AJ replied, “No, it’s the biggest challenge of my life.”

What does AJ have to lose in this fight? Well, a lot, actually. Earlier, as soon as the Ngannou fight was announced, Eddie Hearn, AJ’s promoter, noted that Filip Hrgovic remains on AJ’s path to a championship fight. The Croatian ‘El Animal’ is next in line for the IBF heavyweight belt as the mandatory. If Usyk vacates the title in case of a rematch with Tyson Fury, Hrgovic can claim the title. Since AJ has been preparing to reclaim his titles, a loss would put a big dent in his claim to a title match.

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When the question was posed to Ngannou, who lost his debut boxing fight with a thin margin to Fury last year, he had a rather elusive argument to present. He explained, “It’s the gimmick fight. Fight is a gimmick. Overall I think it’s very funny. Because, I think if gimmick fight like, I mean we’re crossing, this is a crossover, you know?”

AJ refuting to label his Ngannou encounter as a ‘gimmick fight’ is a flip statement. It was the same argument the fighter used earlier to deny fighting ‘The Predator.’ So what made him change his mind?

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Why did Anthony Joshua agree to fight Ngannou?

In the same conversation on the DAZN sitdown, the 27-3, heavyweight explained, “They spoke about this fight before and I said ‘no, it’s a gimmick fight, it’s not something that I think is right — crossing over when I’m still chasing heavyweight glory. And then I think when they saw what happened with his last fight, the situation with Wilder, this opportunity presented itself. I never turned down a challenge and I’m looking forward to it,” added Joshua.

Watch This Story: Anthony Joshua’s Biggest Money Grabs Inside The Boxing Ring

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On the 8th of March, it will become apparent if AJ’s reign in the boxing realm will continue or if his confrontation with Francis Ngannou is the onset of his plummet in the sport. What do you think? Is this fight a ‘gimmick?’ Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by:

Mohammed Shafiulla

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As Manny Pacquiao once said, “Boxing is not about your feelings. It’s about performance.” Through my writing, I hope to bring this performance closer to boxing fans.
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Gokul Pillai