Anthony Joshua full of praise for 'inspiration' Francis Ngannou after brutal knockout win

Former heavyweight world champion stops the MMA star in the second round of their bout in Riyadh

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Anthony Joshua urged Francis Ngannou to continue his boxing career after the former two-time heavyweight world champion delivered a sensational second-round knockout victory in their bout in Riyadh on Friday night.

Competing in only his second professional boxing fight - his first was a split decision defeat to WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in October - Ngannou was overwhelmed by Joshua in the 'Knockout Chaos' main event, being floored in the opening round before being knocked out cold in the second.

"When I saw the fight with Fury, I thought, this guy could fight, I wanted a piece of that,” said Joshua post-fight. "He's an inspiration, a great champion, and this shouldn't take away from his capabilities.

"He can come again. I told him he shouldn't leave boxing. He's two fights in, and he's fought the best. He can go a long way if he stays dedicated."

Joshua, a former unified WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight champion, went into the fight on the back of three successive wins. Before that, however, he lost back-to-back fights to Oleksandr Usyk, who will take on Fury for the undisputed heavyweight title in Saudi Arabia in May.

The fight only got underway at 3.30am local time, but weary fans enjoyed a sensational start when Joshua quickly sent former UFC heavyweight champion Ngannou to the canvas in the opening round with a brutal right to the chin.

It got worse for the Cameroonian when he was knocked down again in the second round, just managing to beat the count. His resistance lasted only a few more moments and he was sent to the canvas again for the third and final time.

Ngannou lay on his back for some time and needed medical treatment inside the ring before being helped back to his stool.

Joshua, 34, was reportedly being paid $50 million for his clash with the MMA star, whose rags-to-riches story had captivated the sport.

Ngannou grew up in abject poverty, working as a child labourer in a sand quarry for under $2 a day. He then made his way to Europe, even sleeping rough in a car park in Paris before a local coach took him under his wing and steered him to boxing.

Joshua's victory immediately sparked feverish talk of a mega-fight with either Usyk or Fury.

"You're looking at the number one heavyweight in the world," said promoter Eddie Hearn. "On this form, there is no man that can beat him. Tyson Fury, please beat Usyk, because you will get the biggest fight in the history of the sport.

"He destroyed Francis Ngannou. He's a beast and I cannot wait for him to beat Tyson Fury."

Joshua's trainer Ben Davison, who previously trained Fury, told the BBC that "the only way to find out who is the best is to get the winner of Fury and Usyk. That's the only thing that makes sense."

Updated: March 09, 2024, 6:06 AM