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Joshua vs Ngannou: Is it a mismatch or are we in for a surprise?

By Christian ‘Coqqos’ Schembri

There are so many layers to this fight that it’s hard to know where to start and where to end writing about it. It is that intriguing.

On paper, it should be mismatch.

On one hand, you have Anthony Joshua, a career boxer. He is coming from an amateur career that culminated in a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, he is a former unified world champion and veteran of 30 professional boxing fights, of which 12 have been world title fights, and he has faced a who’s who of opponents from Klitschko, Usyk, Povetkin and Whyte, to name just a few.

On the other hand, you have Francis Ngannou. He is a former UFC heavyweight champion and one of MMA’s hardest-ever heavyweight hitters, but with only one pro fight to his name.

In that fight he went ten rounds against Tyson Fury, who is the consensus best heavyweight in boxing – and what a fight it was!

Ngannou made a mockery of the prefight odds and gave Fury the fight of his life, dropping him in the third round with a left hook and going all the rounds to lose a razor-thin split decision.

So, it’s not as straightforward as one would think.

Many who were Ngannou doubters are now believers, with that performance convincing them of the legitimacy of his boxing skills and that the power he had shown in MMA has carried over to boxing.

Others still think that it was a fluke, that he had the performance of a lifetime while Fury underprepared and horribly under performed on the night.

Joshua is a curious case himself. The losses to Andy Ruiz and Oleksandr Usyk have turned the once Golden Boy of boxing into someone who people now say is damaged goods and that he was manufactured all along.

Furthermore, his opponents since losing to Usyk haven’t been the top-tier heavyweights we’re used to seeing him face and his performances against Franklin and Helenius didn’t set the world alight.

Against Wallin, though, he looked like he was back to his best. He was aggressive, accurate and spiteful with his punches and as soon as he saw that Wallin was hurt, he finished him decisively.

The surprise element that Ngannou had going into his fight with Fury is not there anymore, with Joshua and his coach Ben Davison, a great tactician, now able to study Ngannou in an actual boxing fight.

They have also seen Ngannou knocking down Fury, which might affect the tactics of Joshua, who has been notoriously quite defensive and apprehensive to commit offensively, barring his last fight against Wallin, since getting knocked out against Andy Ruiz.

Arguments can be made for both sides as to who will win the fight and in what way.

Both Joshua and Ngannou are heavy punchers, capable of relieving each other from their senses at any given moment.

Joshua has a big edge in boxing experience and has been regaining his form lately, while Ngannou has shown that he can handle himself quite well in the boxing ring and he will not be overwhelmed by the size of the occasion.

If I were a betting man, my heart and head would tell me to bet on Joshua, given his massive edge in boxing experience and similar size and strength to Ngannou.

Make no mistake though, Ngannou is a very live dog, and he is more than capable of springing the upset at any given moment.

What it will surely be though, is a great, unmissable fight.

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