Knockout Chaos - Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou: Grand Arrivals
Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images

Francis Ngannou’s transition to boxing may have started as a side hustle, but as he readies to face Anthony Joshua on Friday, that mission statement has shifted to something more.

“I will definitely still do some MMA fights, but I’m not leaving boxing,” Ngannou said Monday at the event’s grand arrivals in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“Remember, at the beginning, it was boxing. I wasn’t aware of MMA. And for more than a decade, it was all about boxing, dreaming about boxing. And then even when the opportunity came around [in MMA], it was, for me, an opportunity to shine, to be a world champion, and then potentially switch to do the crossover and go back to boxing, because I feel like it was something that I needed, I had to fulfill in order to be at peace with myself. In order to retire peacefully, I needed to do that boxing because I just love it. I can’t tell you why, but I love it and I enjoy it.”

Ngannou, 37, faces two-time former heavyweight champion Joshua, 34, in a 10-round bout this weekend at Kingdom Arena. The fight is the second of Ngannou’s burgeoning professional boxing career — the former UFC heavyweight champion stunned the combat sports world in October when he knocked down Tyson Fury in his pro debut and nearly came away with one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sweet science. Ngannou ultimately lost a split decision, however his performance blew away the expectations of many and left boxing lifers such as Eddie Hearn and Carl Frampton singing his praises.

Ngannou is also signed with PFL and has pledged repeatedly that he will compete for the MMA organization before his career is over. Renan Ferreira, the 2023 PFL season heavyweight champion, recently demolished Bellator champ Ryan Bader with a 21-second knockout at the PFL vs. Bellator event to ostensibly earn the right to welcome Ngannou to the PFL whenever “The Predator” makes his promotional debut. Ferreira told MMA Fighting that he will not enter the 2024 PFL season and will instead opt to wait for Ngannou.

It remains unclear when or if that PFL debut will come, and that question may only be further complicated if Ngannou stuns the combat sports world again by defeating Joshua.

After previously working with boxing legend Mike Tyson for his Fury camp, Ngannou said Monday that he and Tyson were unable to work together for this fight, however the lessons he gleaned from Tyson have stayed at the forefront of his mind ahead of his big night.

“I was and I’m still working on the basics. I think from the moment that you forget about the basics, the fundamentals, you [lose what works],” Ngannou said. “Because what made me really be inspired and be [in] love [with] the Mike Tyson style so much was the fundamentals. Mike Tyson, he could’ve beaten the world champion and he was just [using] the fundamentals. You could’ve put a video of Mike Tyson [on] and take a 5-year-old kid and say, ‘OK, look, this how to box. This is the footwork. This is a jab. This is this.’ Everything was just the fundamentals, and fundamentals get the job done.”

“I’m not a fool. I know that I’m not at the same technique level as those guys,” Ngannou continued. “I’m not saying you’re calling me a fool, I’m just pointing it out — I know the situation. All of them, they’ve been doing this sport for over 20 years at a high-level, full-time, and I’m just getting in, although I was passionate about it my entire life. But I know that I’m not going out there to show something extravagant that I know, that I’ve been practicing. Stick on the fundamentals.”

Author: Staff

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