BoxingSports

Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou: Could Winner Fight For Undisputed Title Next?

Promoter Eddie Hearn believes heavyweight Anthony Joshua could be one win away from fighting for the undisputed world title, despite a two-fight deal in place between champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

Briton Joshua takes on ex-UFC champion Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on Friday.

WBC belt holder Fury will face Ukraine’s unified champion Usyk in May, also in the Saudi capital Riyadh. The winner will be crowned the first undisputed heavyweight champion in the four-belt era.

“The dream for Joshua has always been to be undisputed,” Hearn told BBC Sport.

“If AJ beats Ngannou and Fury beats Usyk, the whole world will be calling for Fury v Joshua.

“It’s probably one of the biggest fights in the history of the sport. Certainly the biggest fight in boxing now.”

Fury-Joshua in 2024 unlikely

Anthony Joshua punches Otto Wallin
Image caption: Two-time world champion Joshua beat Otto Wallin in December

In January, Saudi Turki Alalshikh – one of boxing’s leading power brokers – revealed plans for the winner of Joshua-Ngannou to land a shot at the undisputed title next.

The chairman of Saudi Arabia’s general entertainment authority, with the riches of the Kingdom behind him, has quickly become one of the most influential figures in boxing.

“He wants to make the biggest fights out there,” Hearn said. “He’s a huge fan, like us and everybody else. If he has the ability to make the fight I’m sure he will do everything he can to make it happen.”

But despite Alalshikh’s grand plans and Matchroom promoter Hearn’s optimism, the prospect of Joshua challenging Fury for all four world titles in his next fight seems unlikely.

Internally at broadcasters DAZN, they don’t expect Fury-Joshua to happen before 2025.

Queensberry’s Frank Warren, who represents Fury and is also co-promoting Joshua-Ngannou, is not convinced Usyk would step aside – unless an injury or other external factors prevent him from contesting the rematch.

“Of course, AJ-Fury is the fight we all want to see because at the end of the day it’s two Brits and there’s been that rivalry between them and the two promotional companies for god knows how many years,” Warren said.

“I think Tyson wins the fight against Usyk but then do you see Usyk and his management team stepping aside?

“I don’t. Especially for the monies that’s involved. But anything can happen in boxing.”

Vacant title shot more likely for AJ, Ngannou plans MMA return

A rematch between Usyk and Fury is not expected to be for all four titles. The IBF has written to both teams saying the winner must face the sanctioning body’s mandatory challenger and no exception will be granted for a second fight.

Joshua had made clear his ambition of becoming a three-time world champion and the more likely scenario for the 34-year-old, should he beat Ngannou, would be challenging for the vacant title against Croatia’s number-one ranked IBF fighter Filip Hrgovic.

A win over boxing novice Ngannou is not a foregone conclusion either.

The French Cameroonian, in his first pro fight, suffered a close split-decision loss to Fury in October, having dropped the Gypsy King in the third round.

“AJ is very proud of his resume and legacy but if he loses lose to a guy who has been defeated in his only professional bout, that is not a good look,” Hearn added.

“A defeat would put him way back in the pecking order after we’ve done all the work to be on the verge of the top again.”

A shock win over Joshua would strengthen Ngannou’s legitimacy as a heavyweight contender.

Fury has also spoken about a potential rematch with Ngannou in the future, but the 37-year-old is scheduled to return to MMA with the PFL this summer, with the promotion intending to announce an opponent later this month.

source: BBC

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