Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou: AJ says former UFC champion is not a ‘gimmick’ opponent and believes he beat Tyson Fury

Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou will meet in a heavyweight clash live on Sky Sports Box Office on Friday March 8; scroll down for booking information – how and when to book via remote or online

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Anthony Joshua insists ‘talk is cheap’ as he prepares for his fight against Francis Ngannou on March 8

Anthony Joshua dismissed suggestions that Francis Ngannou is a ‘gimmick’ opponent and believes the former UFC champion was wrongly denied a victory over Tyson Fury.

Joshua has won his last three fights, the most recent against Otto Wallin in a dominant five-round win in December, and will face Ngannou in their non-title contest in Friday’s crossover super-fight in Saudi Arabia, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

The mixed martial arts star made his professional boxing debut in October last year where he knocked down Tyson Fury in the third round only to be denied victory as Fury escaped with a contentious split-decision win.

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“I was watching the Fury and Ngannou fight from home and from what I saw I thought he won,” Joshua told Sky Sports.

“It’s not a gimmick, it’s not something that’s benefiting the broadcasters, it’s not just a fight for entertainment purposes.

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Watch this epic arcade-style blockbuster fight promo ahead of Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou on March 8

“This is a serious fight with someone who is prepared and understands the dynamic of boxing and he’s putting up a good fight against the apparently generational great. So, I look at it now as something completely different.

“To be classified as a world-class heavyweight I would say that you have to stay there for a period of time. But I think that he’s an athlete with a lot of potential.

“I think he should stay in boxing in my opinion, he’s got great potential to make waves.

“In terms of the word ‘gimmick’ we can get rid of that. In terms of the whole crossover aspect of what boxing is, it’s not that Ngannou was a gimmick or Fury was a gimmick, but the whole MMA crossing over into boxing I looked at it as a gimmick, but now I can see that there are certain fighters in the MMA world that can box, and he’s one of them.

“It’s good news for us fighters and good news for broadcasters because they’ve got me and Ngannou going at it in a few days.”

Great Britain’s Joshua suffered successive defeats to Oleksandr Usyk before winning his three consecutive fights whilst Ngannou was the reigning UFC heavyweight champion before he left the promotion to begin his boxing career and has 17 wins and three losses from his time in MMA.

“My mentality is that I’m fighting a talented fighter, like every fight there is massive jeopardy and I’ve got to take it seriously,” Joshua continued.

“At the time I looked at it more as a benefit for the broadcasters and sponsors. Now I look at it as someone who is serious about fighting, serious about MMA and serious about boxing.

“That’s why I’m here, because I love the same thing he does, I love to fight. When I saw the fight with Tyson Fury I thought: ‘He knows what he’s doing, he can handle himself.’

“A lot of people say he won the fight and I thought this is a great challenge for me because I need to figure out more about myself, if it’s not a challenge then I am going to stick to what I know best and I’m going to stay in my comfort zone.

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Francis Ngannou discusses how he has prepared to face Anthony Joshua on March 8

“But when I saw the fight he put up against Fury, I thought this is a challenge which has driven me to push on and push on from my career so it’s going to have massive benefits for me in the long-run as well.”

Before Fury fought Ngannou, he said the whole of boxing’s reputation is on his shoulders, but Joshua doesn’t feel that kind of pressure.

“I haven’t thought of it that way because it’s only my pressure. I don’t put that pressure on myself and I don’t have that thought about anything. I just think about winning and doing what I need to do, that’s my mentality,” Joshua added.

“It’s a fight, it’s a 50/50 fight. Anything can happen. Crazier things have happened before. It is what it is. It’s a great opportunity for me to go back to work. If I didn’t take this opportunity that’s presented to me, when would I be fighting next?

“When you look at it, I’m not at the start of my career, I’m not at the middle of my career, I’d say I’m probably towards the end of my career.

“Call it whatever you want to call it, I’m just happy to be at work and doing my job and I can’t wait for the next opportunity that presents itself.”

When is the fight and how can I book?

The event will start at 4pm, Friday March 8 on Sky Sports Box Office (Sky channel 491) and Sky Sports Box Office HD (Sky channel 492). The event is priced at £19.95 for Sky customers in the UK, €24.95 for Sky customers in the Republic of Ireland up until midnight on Thursday March 7.

Thereafter £19.95/€24.95 across all “self-service” bookings (remote control/online) or £24.95 / €29.95 if booked via the phone (either IVR or agent) but note an additional £2 booking fee if via an agent will apply.

The event price will revert back to £19.95 / €24.95 (ROI) from midnight Friday March 8. Two repeat showings (full duration) will be shown at 6am and 4pm on Saturday March 9.

Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight showdown with Francis Ngannou takes place on Friday March 8, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Joshua v Ngannou now!

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