Joshua vs Ngannou tips and picks: 4/1 shot looks sweet

Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou takes place this Friday (March 8) at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. There are no belts on the line but in some ways – for one man at least – the stakes could not be higher.

If AJ (27-3) loses this fight at the age of 34 he almost certainly throws away the opportunity to ever fight for the ‘Undisputed’ title and his legacy will always be viewed with a huge question mark.

From a business perspective also, the staggering investment the General Entertainment Authority in Saudi Arabia – fronted by Turki Alalshikh – has put into the sport in the last few years means this just isn’t the time to lose a heavyweight boxing match and see your stock drop through the floor.  

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This is something of a free hit for Ngannou – if there is such a thing as a $20m free hit – who gets the gig after his valiant display on debut against Tyson Fury last October. The bookies have Joshua as a rightful 2/7 favourite, but Ngannou is not the 7/1 no hoper he was against Fury and has been chalked up at 7/2 for the upset or shorter in Riyadh. 

Jeopardy for Joshua

This is the type of fight where nobody would be shocked if AJ won easily, but also one that nobody should be betting his or her house on him beforehand.

That is due to the fact the former UFC heavyweight champion’s power is genuinely scary, and Joshua’s previous trips to the canvas mean this is a far from straightforward assignment.

Tactics are going to be crucial. One aspect of Ngannou’s game that ‘Team Joshua’ must not overlook is the former UFC man’s physical strength when grappling on the inside. He is a really powerful athlete and Fury was clearly shocked by how strong he was inside.

READ MORE: How Ngannou beats Joshua – Big-Fight Analysis

Fury did not use his jab effectively in that ‘Battle of the Baddest’ contest last October, and was constantly falling in against the Cameroonian. He held his feet too often and was caught with a counter in round three and sent to the canvas by a punch that sent shockwaves through the world.

To win this, Joshua needs to use his skills. He should box at range, use that thudding jab and make sure he does not hold his feet. He cannot to afford to mix it in short and mid-range, as this will play into Ngannou’s hands.

Dropping arguably the world’s best heavyweights and taking him the 10-round distance – losing on a split – was proof that the Cameroonian is not some sort of circus act but is very much for real. So if Joshua gets the tactics wrong, boxing at short to mid-range, it could be a rough night.

Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou Press Conference
Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou at the press conference to announce their March 8 fight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Photo – Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing).

Why Ngannou is a danger

The size difference between the pair is negligible. Joshua is 6’6” but his opponent is a solid 6’4” and is immensely powerful. He is a man who is super fit and who is used to being hit from his MMA days. It is worth remembering too that Ngannou had been out of the ring 20 months before that Fury fight. Ring rust is certainly less of a problem here so in theory he should be sharper.

For a novice, he showed a decent boxing technique and a lovely counter left hook against Fury. They will know the Englishman can be vulnerable when backed up, but pushing AJ back is not without risk as he could be caught with something big on the way in.

READ MORE: How Joshua beats Ngannou – Big-fight analysis

The guess is Ngannou employs the same tactics as he did against ‘The Gypsy King’. He sat back against Fury, made him miss and made him fall in. Whether by luck or design, this was a masterful tactic on the night. His counter-punching was also on point, so it will be fascinating to see how these two throw down.

Ngannou has 10 rounds to land the honey punch, so patience is again the key. 

Study the tape

The positive for ‘Team Joshua’ is that the surprise element has now gone. Joshua at least has some case law to study here and its Ngannou’s performance against Fury. They will know he can switch hit (orthodox to southpaw) effectively and likes to wait for the counter left hook. They now know he has a granite chin and is calm under pressure too.

If AJ gets the tactics right, he could actually look a million dollars.

READ MORE: Heavyweight rankings ahead of Joshua vs Ngannou

Joshua does not seem like a person who likes change, but he has switched trainers two or three times since parting with Robert McCracken. However if you are only as good as your last performance, he was excellent against Otto Wallin under new coach Ben Davison. He seems content with his current set up and a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter. Against Wallin, he went in there relaxed and let his hands go, and Wallin could not live with him (retiring on his stool after five rounds).

Anthony Joshua vs Otto Wallin Results Day of Reckoning Riyadh Saudi Arabia
Anthony Joshua batters Otto Wallin en route to a fifth-round stoppage victory in their heavyweight fight on the ‘Day of Reckoning’ card in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Photo – Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing).

Joshua is 7/10 to win by KO/TKO on Friday, and that will be a popular bet with boxing casuals. However, an early stoppage would be hugely surprising.


The blueprint to beat Ngannou is surely to break him down, not rush things, and do it by being patient and using educated pressure. If he goes for an early showreel KO, he could come unstuck.   

Ngannou will not be intimidated and knows he produced the most electrifying heavyweight boxing debut in history last year to push Fury to the wire. You have to keep in mind that one judge thought he won by a score of 96-95 after 10 rounds. He was also never dropped in his UFC career, suggesting he has the chin to take Joshua’s best shots. 

READ MORE: Anthony Joshua on why Ben Davison partnerships is CLICKING

The bill has been tagged ‘Knockout Chaos’ but ironically this one might go the full 10 rounds. Big Francis is well conditioned, motivated and very fit.

Given AJ has all the boxing fundamentals to get the win here, but knowing how dangerous his opponent is, we do not expect ‘Knockout Chaos’ and instead the pick is for Joshua to box his way to a win on the scorecards (chalked up at 4/1 at time of writing).

Joshua vs Ngannou tips and picks

Anthony Joshua to win by decision or technical decision at 4/1 (Betfair/Paddy Power)