‌Francis Ngannou Becomes Dark Horse In Boxing’s Heavyweight Division‌

Francis Ngannou’s strategic move from UFC to boxing shakes up the heavyweight scene, setting the stage for a potential upset against Anthony Joshua.

<p>Francis Ngannou and Anthony Joshua set to square off in Saudi Arabia this Friday. MATCHROOM BOXING.</p>

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — As a competitor in combat sports, the world could be your oyster when you’re 6’4 and 260 pounds. Endless options are available when you are widely known as one of the biggest punchers in MMA. 


One would assume UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou was well on his way to becoming one of the faces of the organization when he captured the heavyweight title by knocking out then champion Stipe Miocic in the second round of their March 2021 title fight. For those who have the ability to ignore internet rumors of injuries and unhappiness, you truly felt Ngannou was on the fast-track to UFC stardom following his January 2022 title defense against Ciryl Gane. 


After all, Ngannou was on a six-fight winning streak with five of those wins coming by way of knockout. However, if you couldn’t ignore the rumors, which became ample screams from the disgruntled heavyweight champion, you realized that things were about to get interesting. 


With a potential mega-fight looming against Jon Jones, Ngannou demanded certain freedoms and perks during his contract negotiations with the UFC. The two sides weren’t able to come to a resolution leading to Ngannou walking while being the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion. 


Typically, leaving the UFC under such circumstances has not fared well for most. Some fighters were delegated to fight in what is known as the “minor leagues” of MMA [lesser-known organizations] following contract disputes with the UFC, while others have experienced failed careers in other sports [boxing], acting, etc. Ngannou seems to be the exception to the rule. Currently, it seems as though the Cameroonian French heavyweight betted on himself and won&mldr; in a big way! 


Following his very public and at times ugly split from his longtime promoters, Ngannou would secure a strategic partnership deal with PFL [Professional Fighters League] in May of 2023. The groundbreaking deal is the most lucrative signing in MMA history. Beyond MMA, the deal affords Ngannou to participate in boxing matches, and Francis in a short period has created plenty of intrigue. October 28, 2023, Ngannou made his pro boxing debut. Not just any debut, against the lineal heavyweight champion of the world, Tyson Fury. 


Fury, 33-0-1 at the time was obviously a massive favorite heading into the fight. Ngannou not only impressed observers, but he also put the 6’9 heavyweight kingpin on his pockets in round 3 with a left hook. Although he lost a split decision, he silenced many detractors, with some feeling he should’ve gotten the nod. 


Fast forward to March 8, 2024, 0-1 Francis Ngannou will face 27-3 Anthony Joshua. The mystique of Ngannou, the awkwardness, and the power that he possesses poses a threat for any heavyweight. Facing two of the biggest names in the heavyweight division in his first two fights as a professional proves his value, as well as his willingness to earn his seat at the table. 


Nothing is given, everything is earned, and Francis Ngannou is starting to look like the smartest businessman in combat sports outside of the ring, and heavyweight boxing’s biggest dark horse inside of the ring. Ngannou will be a live dog against Joshua. If we’re being honest, the more experience he gets, the harder it will become to bet against him. Father time is undefeated and Ngannou is 37 years old, and only two fights into his second career, however, if the saying is true, that power is the last thing to go, Ngannou could shock the world in March, creating boxing’s version of March Madness! 


The card billed as “Knockout Chaos” will take place on Friday, March 8th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

(Additional reporting provided by Miriam Onyango)