When Frank Warren talks about Francis Ngannou these days, his voice is full of excitement, but there is also an unquestionable tinge of regret.
‘The Predator’ was 37 years old when he made his professional boxing debut with the biggest challenge of all last October – a meeting with WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
Written off by the bookmakers, and most experts, Ngannou aced his test in the most improbable manner. He had ‘The Gypsy King’ down early and was terrific in pushing Fury to the scorecards.
Ngannou would eventually drop a hotly disputed split decision, but he had outperformed expectations in a massive way.
While Warren, Fury’s Hall of Fame promoter, was massively impressed by that showing, he also came away with one feeling of regret. Imagine if Ngannou had started boxing professionally in his youth, instead of following the MMA path into UFC.
Ngannou a danger
In a recent face-off with rival promoter Eddie Hearn, Warren said in that event Ngannou would have probably achieved something ‘extra special’. He doubled down on that line in his latest column for his Queensberry Promotions website this week.
“An interesting point was made during all the post press conference interviews that this will be the first time AJ will come up against someone of similar or bigger dimensions than himself. Francis is a man mountain and AJ cannot be accused of not picking on someone his own size this time around.
“Will this be a factor on the night? We’ll have to wait and see, but in no way, shape or form will Francis ever be a knockover job for anybody. Let’s put it this way, if there are any more like him knocking about in Cameroon, forget about MMA and get in touch please. Just imagine if Francis had followed up on his first love boxing right from the start…”
Joshua vs Ngannou verdict
Joshua reportedly had other options for this March 8 show – notably the likes of unbeaten Croat Filip Hrgovic and giant Chinese sensation Zhilei Zhang. But he settled on Ngannou, who is a big draw as well as a threat. Warren believes that threat is a major one – and he explained why.
“I don’t need to go over too much old ground when it comes to Francis, as opposed to when we announced his fight with Tyson Fury. Very few people will doubt his credentials now and, as for the event itself, it has obvious crossover appeal that will generate a wider audience.
“As is well documented, the plan was to match AJ with Deontay Wilder, but boxing has a habit of getting in the way of best laid plans. Despite his limited experience in the sport, Francis presents a clear danger because, quite simply, he can fight and he showed against Tyson that he is a quick learner.”