BOXING

Francis Ngannou backed to ‘exploit weaknesses’ of Anthony Joshua and claim shock win

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Frank Warren believes Francis Ngannou can cause an upset by defeating Anthony Joshua ahead of their heavyweight showdown in Saudi Arabia on 8 March.

Briton Joshua returns to action following December’s impressive stoppage over Sweden’s Otto Wallin as he continues his bid to become a three-time world champion against mixed martial arts star Ngannou in a 10-round bout.

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Queensbury promoter Warren, whose prize fighter Tyson Fury came back from an early knockdown to beat Ngannou in controversial fashion in October, believes Joshua should be wary of his opponent’s punch power.

Speaking to the PA news agency at the launch of Queensbury’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ boxing card, Warren said: “Joshua’s come into this after his last fight against Wallin. He’ll be a big favourite going in, but I know that if he gets caught on the whiskers then this fella [Ngannou] could cause a massive upset because he can whack.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how he takes the fight and to see if he fights on the outside or the inside. Ngannou’s game is getting on the inside, he’s a big man, he’s strong. I’m intrigued to see what Ngannou’s learnt from his last fight.”

Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou is a done deal for 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi  Arabia | Marca

Joshua showed signs of being back to his best with last month’s ruthless victory over Wallin, which marked his third victory of 2023 following wins against Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius.But Warren believes Ngannou has the tools to exploit AJ’s “wealth” of weaknesses in Riyadh.“If I’m fighting AJ, what am I looking to do? I’d look to exploit his weaknesses and there’s a wealth of that which we’ve seen,” Warren added. “We’ve seen his weaknesses in that first fight against Tubby the Tuba [a defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019].

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“Also the two fights against Oleksandr Usyk, we can see what they are. People have seen him wobble a few times in fights, that happens with him. I’m not saying there’s a confidence issue, but there wasn’t that where he was such an emphatic fighter. I think he’s changed. He’s changed his style a bit, which he should do. His new trainer [Ben Davison] has brought some momentum to him, but he’s going to have a fight on his hands.”

Nathan Heaney and Joe Joyce are among the fighters on the ‘Magnficent Seven’ card in Birmingham on 16 March, and Warren is expecting a competitive night of action.

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He said: “The last one we did I think was British promotion of the year. They were great fights, competitive fights and it’s a similar situation here. We have young and established fighters who are all in competitive fights. This is something we will now do on a regular basis. They will all be looking these guys to outdo each other because someone wants to come through as the eye-catching fight.”

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