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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Eddie Hearn thinks Francis Ngannou might go down as the trickiest challenge of Anthony Joshua’s career when it eventually comes to a close.

Matchroom Boxing chairman Hearn, who has been the longtime promoter of Joshua, will be sitting on the edge of his seat when his fighter steps into the ring with former UFC champion Ngannou for a 10-round heavyweight bout on Friday at Kingdom Arena (pay-per-view).

Although Hearn has met him multiple times before, he said he continues to be astounded by the sheer physical presence of Ngannou. And the proven strength he carries along with the confidence of fighting Tyson Fury to a split decision loss in his boxing debut in October, gives Hearn cause for concern.

“Ngannou is huge,” Hearn told MMA Junkie following Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference. “I’m quite fascinated by the size of him. AJ’s a massive man, but Ngannou’s legs – everything. He’s got a lot of confidence going into this fight. He should be petrified. But he’s really not, and that’s worrying in itself. AJ’s better than him in itself. But he’s very strong, he’s very powerful and he punches very hard. And in this division, that can get you to victory.”

Although Ngannou is still a novice in terms of boxing experience, Hearn said his mental fortitude, athleticism and knockout power makes up for a lack of time in the sport.

Hearn is curious to see what advancement Ngannou has made with his skillset since he last stepped into the ring, but whatever it is, he doesn’t envision a path to victory for “The Predator” outside of a clean knockout.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how he’s improved,” Hearn said. “AJ’s a different beast. Fury and AJ have got different attributes. AJ’s very fast, and punches very hard. And it’ll be interesting to see – and Fury said to me, ‘I hit Ngannou hard and he didn’t move.’ And I was like, ‘Ah.’ So we’ll see if he can stand up to the speed and power of AJ.

“The only way Ngannou can win is to land a shot on AJ at some point during the fight. There’s no way that Francis can win rounds against AJ repetitively. So he has to win this fight by knockout. And as the rounds go on and he gets tired, the power will start to diminish.”

The winner of Joshua vs. Ngannou has already been touted as the next challenger to the winner of the undisputed heavyweight title unification bout between Fury and Oleksandr Usyk on May 18. The upcoming year could shape a significant chapter of the most storied weight class in boxing, and Hearn thinks Joshua is going to be the last man standing.

“The greatest fighter of our generation in the division – that’s what they’re all fighting for at the moment,” Hearn said. “If Fury beats Usyk and beats AJ, he goes down as the greatest of our generation. Unquestionable. If AJ beats – obviously he’s got to beat Ngannou – but if he beats Fury and becomes undisputed, he goes down as the greatest of our generation.

“I’m telling you now: if we get through Friday, which may be our toughest challenge, he’s going to do it all. He’ll beat Fury and knock him out. But let’s just watch through the fingers on Friday and hope we come out good.”

For more on the fight, visit MMA Junkie’s hub for Joshua vs. Ngannou

Author: Staff

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