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Anthony Joshua knocks out Francis Ngannou with vicious finish against former UFC heavyweight champion

Anthony Joshua Francis Ngannou Boxing

Joshua floored a shell-shocked Ngannou with a vicious right hand in the opening round before knocking down the former UFC heavyweight champion twice in the next, the second of which would leave Ngannou flat out for the count.

It arrived as the most destructive knockout of Joshua’s career to follow up statement stoppages over Robert Helenius and Otto Wallin in reigniting his pursuit of another world title opportunity.

The prospective prize had featured prominently throughout the build-up in Saudi Arabia, with victory now expected to pave the way to a shot at the winner of Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk’s clash for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

“When I saw the fight with Fury, I thought damn, this guy could fight, I wanted a piece of that,” said Joshua post-fight

“He’s an inspiration, a great champion, and this shouldn’t take away from his capabilities. He can come again. I told him he shouldn’t leave boxing. He’s two fights in, and he’s fought the best.

“He can go a long way if he stays dedicated.”
Joshua

Joshua had cut a laser-focused figure all week amid all the pageantry and promises, maintaining that approach as he delivered a knockout clinic to hand Ngannou a ruthless exposure to the true world of heavyweight boxing.

Ngannou had arrived riding the momentum of a staggering debut performance against Fury back in October, his shock third-round knockdown in defeat to the WBC champion earning him another lucrative day between the ropes. As 4am approached in Saudi Arabia, Joshua was in no mood for further drama.

The former unified world champion paraded his superior speed during the opening exchanges when he left Ngannou on his backside with a bruising right hand to set the tone, asserting his authority behind feints to which the MMA-convert could find no read.

Joshua then punished Ngannou’s southpaw stance in the second with a crashing right fist to put his opponent down again, before crowning the job seconds later with another shuddering right to leave his man out cold and in need of treatment on the canvas.

“Francis Ngannou beat the WBC heavyweight champion of the world – I should be WBC heavyweight champion of the world,” joked Joshua. “He’s a dreamer, a risk-taker, that story of his should not be clouded by tonight.”

The win moves Joshua to 28-3 in his career while offering another statement of intent before the eyes of Fury in the front-row at ringside following the Gypsy King’s laboured split-decision win over Ngannou towards the end of last year.

Joshua wasted no time in making a beeline for the winner of Fury and Usyk, who will meet on May 18, while also paying tribute to the impact of his relationship with trainer Ben Davison, whose introduction has coincided with something of a resurgence of the cold-blooded knockout instincts that had fuelled the Olympian’s early career success.

If Fury had taken the Ngannou challenge lightly, there was no risk of Joshua following suit as he paid the respect the 37-year-old had earned from the boxing world in his first outing.

It proved the perfect message on another defining night for Joshua, who blew the door to more exciting opportunities off the hinges two years after much had been doubted following back-to-back losses to Usyk. This was Joshua at his dangerous best, with the spiteful fists and the untarnished confidence of a man who yet believes he can return to the pinnacle of his discipline. In that mood, few would question it.