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Francis Ngannou had perhaps the best loss in a professional debut boxing has ever seen. Now he gets Anthony Joshua.

The former UFC heavyweight champion will face the former unified heavyweight champion in a 10-round match Friday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, five months after Ngannou earned the boxing world’s respect with a split decision loss to WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.

Ngannou entered that Fury match as a heavy underdog against the champion — one promoter called the matchup “a disgrace” — but he differentiated himself from the many MMA fighters-turned-boxers with a performance that wouldn’t have looked out of place from a seasoned heavyweight contender. He managed to knock down Fury in the third round and had the crowd chanting his name in the final round.

What time is Anthony Joshua fight? UK start time for Francis Ngannou fight  - Mirror Online

 

The Cameroonian is once again an underdog against Joshua, but a much closer one at +230 on BetMGM (he was +800 versus Fury).

Meanwhile, Joshua arrives at this fight at an interesting point in his career. It has been 2 1/2 years since he lost his titles to Oleksandr Usyk and 18 months since he fell in the rematch. He has since reeled off three consecutive wins over Jermaine Franklin, Robert Helenius and Otto Wallin, but will likely have to wait a while if he ever wants another title shot. For now, he’s gets boxing’s newest rising star in Ngannou and the payday that comes with it.

The co-main event features an intriguing matchup between WBO interim heavyweight champion Zhilei Zhang and Joseph Parker. WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas faces undefeated prospect Nick Ball on the undercard.

‘The Special One’ is in Riyadh for the blockbuster fight.

Boxing fans have said the same thing after Jose Mourinho was spotted ringside in Riyadh before Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou.

Joshua and Ngannou will do battle at around 11pm UK time in a fight billed as ‘Knockout Chaos’.

A host of high-profile names from across the sporting world are in attendance at the event, including Manny Pacquiao, Tyson Fury, and even Real Madrid and Brazil legend Ronaldo.

Mourinho, meanwhile, has been spotted sitting in the front rows of the venue alongside the chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, Turki Alalshikh.

anthony joshua , francis ngannou

It has been a busy evening for Mourinho, who walked out with the trophy prior to the Egypt Cup final between Al Ahly and Zamalek – which also took place in Saudi Arabia.

He made a rapid journey across to the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh to take in the boxing action on what has been a highly-anticipated card.

But after seeing Mourinho and the reaction he received from those in attendance upon appearing on the big screen, plenty of boxing fans had the same complaint regarding the event as a whole.

One fan wrote: “Biggest cheer of the night so far was for Jose Mourinho. Cracking atmosphere…”

Another agreed: “Hahahaha only cheer of the night so far for Jose Mourinho.”

A third opined: “The atmosphere for boxing in Saudi is absolutely shocking.”

Mourinho is currently out of work after being sacked by Roma earlier this year.

anthony joshua, francis ngannou

The Portuguese icon delivered a Europa Conference League title to Rome in 2022, and reached the Europa League final last season, but a challenging run of form around the turn of the year into 2024 proved to be his undoing.

He has admitted that he has received job offers since he departed the club, but has yet to accept one.

Mourinho has been linked with a return to Chelsea, and with the soon-to-be vacant role at Bayern Munich once Thomas Tuchel leaves at the end of the current season.