By KUNLE AWOSIYAN
Undoubtedly, Anthony Joshua is winning the fight against Francis Ngannou in Riyadh in March.
This bout is strictly about the purse, which will not in any way remove the spectacle, size and class of names that will attend the show.
Riyadh is the new boxing theatre. The slaughter slab of this era.
However I foresee Joshua/Ngannou to be a one sided match between the two body builders. For me it is not a match Joshua should have taken at a time his ovation is growing louder.
Joshua needs somebody like Zhilei Zhang to really test his new found skills but then he had opted for money and a battle that will not give him too much pressure.
Ngannou will be coming with more confidence, having shown the world what he can do against Tyson Fury late last year, which of course may count against him.
He has seen that boxing is not as rigorous as UFC in terms of the amount of raw energy expended. He has seen that his punch could actually throw a heavyweight down but he has never taken a brutally uppercut or a devastating hook that could twist his neck or cut his eye.
His endurance has not really been tested. He may feel it against Joshua.
He fought against Fury who never took him serious. He fought against a less technical and more careless boxer on that night.
Fury is more of a fighter than a boxer. He is less tactical than Joshua but he is stronger. Fury just learnt his first lesson, unfortunately, from a UFC convert, Ngannou.
However, Ngannou will be meeting a descent boxer in March. I say a descent boxer because Joshua has learnt many lessons and these in a way has helped him to become a better boxer.
His first lesson was against Andy Ruiz Junior where he learnt that he shouldn’t have thrown himself in the front of a heavy puncher.
He learnt twice against Oleksandr Usyk, whose boxing intelligence surpasses any member of the elite class at present.
Against Ruiz, Joshua bounced back, maximised the ring, took Ruiz round the 12 rounds to reclaim his belt.
Yes it was a formula that didn’t fit him but then he was able to learn new things. To conserve energy for 12 rounds in order to tire out a heavy builder. In the process, he outboxed Ruiz and won unanimously.
The tactics never worked for him against Usyk. The Ukranian is faster, lighter and more mobile. Twice he could not find answers to Usyk. Joshua was outboxed.
However, the two lessons and their executions paid off as he combined the tactics to get 12-round win against Jermain Franklin, a six-round knockout against Robert Helenius and five-round technical knockout against Otto Wallin.
Ngannou is coming to Joshua’s school and he will be fighting a more cautious Briton who has not only noticed his error. Joshua may not have felt the power of Ngannou, he has seen it push down his compatriot. He is going to be more tactical and cautious, yet very dangerous against Ngannou.
Joshua has seen that big punches may not fall Ngannou but then a punctured eye can take out the Cameroonian. To set up an Ngannou for a big blow won’t be a big problem for Joshua. And if the Cameroonian, due to his crude boxing wisdom, falls for this setup, he may get injured in the early rounds.
To some people, Ngannou did well against Fury, for me he did little. He came for a show and he got it. He won the crowd but the fight.
Funnily enough, he came for a show against an unserious pugilist who talks more than fighting. Ngannou exposed himself too much to Fury but then the Briton failed to knock him down until a hook threw him on the canvas.
I foresee an Ngannou exploring the aggressive tactics to destabilise Joshua but the Briton will definitely keep him at a distance and fight from outside.
I see Joshua combining favourably from the outside. I see Joshua winning another technical knockout. This time against Ngannou.