Francis Ngannou says he knew something was wrong BEFORE Anthony Joshua fight began

Francis Ngannou is still coming to terms with that devastating knockout by Anthony Joshua, and he has revealed he felt something was wrong BEFORE he stepped into the ring.

Former UFC superstar Ngannou was knocked down three times inside two rounds against the two-time world heavyweight champion, with the final blow a highlight-reel KO from Joshua late in the second.

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The 37-year-old Ngannou – who had performed so brilliantly on his professional boxing debut against Tyson Fury last October – is still analysing what went wrong. And he says he knew in the build-up to the fight that he was not feeling right.

Ngannou on what went wrong

He told Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour: “Emotionally I’m good. The only thing that bothers me, it’s a little weird, is that I was never in that fight, it was weird. It was a weird day, a weird evening, I was tired. I was in the locker room for four-and-a-half hours waiting, but then even when warming up I was sweating but still getting tired.

“I even told Eric [Nicksick, his coach], ‘Bro this is weird, I’m sweating but I feel like I’m asleep’ and even the fight, when the fight started I was never there, like even the first minute. And I remember that even when I get hit by the first punch, I was more surprised about the fact that I’m falling down from that first punch than the punch itself.

Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou Knockdown heavyweight boxing Riyadh Saudi Arabia
Anthony Joshua knocks down Francis Ngannou in Round 1 of their heavyweight boxing fight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 8, 2024 (Photo – Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing).

“Like okay man, you know sometimes even in sparring you take some punch and I’m like ‘damn this guy hits hard’ but you’re alright. But I take a punch, the first punch, I was awake but I didn’t really feel. I find myself down – I’m like ‘man, what’s going on?’.

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“And then I’m being counted so okay let’s take your time to get back up and things was still a little blurry and I went to my corner and I could have listened to my coach Eric. Dewey [Cooper] was like ‘champion don’t go to southpaw again, he’s waiting for you’.

“I went to my corner and we started to talk, they were talking to me and I was listening. And like my memory and my vision and everything keep going. I don’t remember when I came back from the stool to go to the second round. From the stool between rounds, I wasn’t there any more.

“Hey man, some days are just not your day, you can’t even explain what happened but it was quite weird.”

Ngannou’s long wait

Ngannou was questioned about what might have been the reason for his fatigue, and asked if the 3am local start time could have caused it. He said the only issue he had was being in the arena more than four hours before the start of the bout – he claims more than two hours earlier than Joshua.

‘The Predator’ said he has never ever felt like this before, telling Helwani: “No, no, absolutely not. You know that it’s normal when you have a fight that maybe you’re a little nervous – stuff like that happens, you know it’s gonna happen.

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“But by being there so many times, you deal with it, you accept it. You know that when I’m warmed, when we are ready to fight, I’m there. I’m sharp, I’m on alert. But no, I wasn’t, it wasn’t like I was in the ring. We start the fight and I didn’t feel that right.”

The positive news for Ngannou right now is that there appears to be no lasting damage from the devastating knockout Joshua delivered on March 8.

He said: “I’m feeling good, surprisingly. I did get some medical checks but everything is okay. I didn’t get any concussion or anything – in fact I went to the hospital to check because I’d never been in that situation, and the last punch was quite violent.”

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