Anthony Joshua said on Monday he is hoping a fight against ex-mixed martial arts fighter Francis Ngannou will lead to a shot at becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Former heavyweight world champion Joshua will face Ngannou in just his second professional bout in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 8.
Three weeks prior to that fight, Tyson Fury takes Oleksandr Usyk in Riyadh for the right to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 1999.
Joshua won all three of his fights in 2023 as he bids to return to the top of the heavyweight division, with his most impressive performance coming in a fifth-round stoppage of Otto Wallin last month.
Cameroon-born Ngannou only made his professional boxing debut in October, when he knocked down WBC champion Fury before losing a close decision.
“Every fight leads to somewhere, so this fight is my everything and we will see where it leads me,” said Joshua as the fighters faced off at a press conference in London.
British heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua attends a press conference in London on January 15, 2024, ahead of his fight with French-Cameroonian boxer Francis Ngannou in March. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)
“I have got to take his mind and his spirit, it will be explosive. We can both trade and it will be a good fight.”
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn did not hide from his ambitions for the former Olympic champion.
“If you can imagine the winner of this fight against the winner of Fury v Usyk, it’s been a long dream of Anthony and his team to be undisputed.”
Former UFC heavyweight champion Ngannou has another shot at one of the biggest names in the sport after nearly ending Fury’s unbeaten record.
“I’m going to come as an underdog to win the fight. I will get this done, I’m just a beginner,” said Ngannou.
“I will come out better and that’s how I see things. I prepared for a hard fight. The Fury fight is in the past and I will take this more serious than before because there’s more on the line, the undisputed.
“I will do something nobody has done before and I have the tools to do that. It will not be an easy fight, but a possible one (to win).”
Both Joshua’s victory over Wallin and Ngannou’s surprise showing against Fury also took place in the Saudi capital, with the oil-rich Gulf Kingdom rapidly becoming the go-to destination for promoters seeking big purses for major bouts.
Saudi Arabia has lavished billions of dollars on sporting events in recent years, including the right to host the 2034 World Cup, the LIV Golf circuit, a Formula One Grand Prix and football’s Club World Cup.
But the world’s biggest exporter of oil has been accused by its critics of “sportswashing” by using sport to improve its international reputation after widespread criticism for its human rights and environmental record.