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Destructive Joshua Delivers Statement Win, Knocks Out Ngannou in Second Round

The UFC champion appeared to be out before he even hit the canvas and required medical treatment.

Anthony Joshua delivered the most powerful statement to the heavyweight division with a destructive second-round knockout win over Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia.

Joshua, 34, floored the UFC champion in the first round and early in the second.

A dazed Ngannou rose to his feet in Riyadh but was stunned by an explosive and formidable right moments later as the referee halted the contest.

The 37-year-old appeared to be out before he even hit the canvas and required medical treatment.

“I’m going back to my cage and when they let me out, I’ll fight again,” Joshua said, as WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury watched on from ringside.

Fury made tough work of Ngannou in October when he was dropped by the debutant before edging a points win.

“When I saw the fight with Tyson Fury I thought ‘I want some of that’. [Ngannou] is a great champion and this doesn’t take anything away from his capabilities,” said Joshua.

“I told him not to leave boxing. He’s two fights in and he’s fought the best.”

Victory is two-time world champion Joshua’s fourth in 11 months, and keeps alive his ambition of recapturing a world title.

Eddie Hearn called for Joshua, who he has promoted throughout the heavyweight’s pro career, to face the winner of Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

The pair will fight to become the undisputed heavyweight world champion in May, with a rematch later in the year.

“In five years I won’t be fighting,” Joshua added. “Eddie Hearn and my team will shape my future.”

A knockout for the highlight reels

With the card running more than an hour later than planned, it was 03:20 local time when master of ceremonies Michael Buffer introduced Ngannou to the ring.

Dressed in a pink and white robe with gold tassels, Ngannou made the solitary walk down the aisle to the tune of ‘God’s Plan’ by Drake.

A frowning Joshua looked full of purpose as he strutted to the ring with confidence. He kneeled down and recited a prayer in his corner.

Joshua drew the loudest reaction, a mixture of boos and jeers. He seemed completely undeterred, his eyes set firmly on Ngannou.

And it was a near-perfect start for the Watford-born fighter. Ngannou had just narrowly missed with a lead left hand as Joshua remained calm and composed.

AJ extended his backhand to land a flush right down the pipe. By flooring Ngannou, he had done within three minutes what Fury failed to do in 10 rounds four months ago.

A stunned Ngannou got up on the count of eight and saw out the round.

Joshua has become a smarter fighter in recent years, honing his technical ability. He doubled his jab, bided his time and waited for an opening.

Another right hand had Ngannou clamouring on the floor. He beat the count in the nick of time but the writing was on the wall.

The finishing punch was one which will undoubtedly take centre stage in future Joshua knockout highlights reel.

A statement win in Saudi

A well-schooled amateur boasting Olympic gold and a two-time world champion with wins against some of the best in the division, Joshua’s experience prevails in the early hours in Riyadh.

The razzmatazz of Saudi boxing was on show, albeit still under the backdrop of critics claiming the Kingdom is using high-profile sporting events to ‘sports wash’ away its human rights records.

While it was not the star studded affair seen in past event in the region, former champions Amir Khan and Manny Pacquiao rubbed shoulders with the likes of football manager Jose Mourinho and Brazilian World Cup winner Ronaldo.

The card was billed as ‘knockout chaos’ but the Saudi crowd – as they usually do – behaved in a very quiet and orderly manner.

The pressure was on Joshua to deliver a message to rival Fury. A fighter who has faced an intense level of scrutiny in recent years, Joshua acknowledged the impact of trainer Ben Davison.

Davison was in Joshua’s corner for the second time, having also overseen December’s dominant win over Otto Wallin.

“I didn’t want to disrespect Ngannou but he’s not been hit by someone like AJ before,” Davison told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I’ll let people judge whether he is improving. The only way to find out who is the best is to get the winner of Fury and Usyk. That’s the only thing that makes sense.”

Whether Ngannou listens to Joshua’s advice and returns to the sport anytime soon awaits to be soon, but the ‘Predator’ is a proven winner – whether it be in life, the UFC octagon or a boxing ring.

His journey has taken him from a 12-year-old working in sand quarry in Cameroon to living on the streets of Paris, before becoming UFC champion.

Although his childhood dream of becoming a boxing world champion may never become reality, Ngannou is set to return to MMA later this year with the PFL in search of his next prey.


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