Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou signed for Saudi Arabia in March
Frank Warren confirmed the Anthony Joshua (27-3, 24KO) vs Francis Ngannou (0-1) heavyweight fight on Friday, January 6, with the press conference to announce the date and further details to take place next week.
The press conference has been reportedly scheduled for January 15 to reveal further details, with reports suggesting the fight will take place on Friday, March 8 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Deontay Wilder and Zhilei Zhang are rumoured to be featuring on the same bill.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, 37 from Cameroon, had his pro debut against WBC champ Tyson Fury in October. Over the 10 heavyweight rounds, the debutant impressed by knocking 'The Gypsy King' with a left hook in the third round. He exceeded expectations and one ringside judge scored the fight 95-94 in his favour.
AJ fought in December against Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin, who he dismantled and forced to retire after five one-sided rounds. The former two-time world champion from Watford fought three times during 2023, the first time he has had three fights in the same year since he first became world champion in 2016.
After a tough 12-round unanimous decision win over durable American Jermaine Franklin in April, the 34-year-old Brit scored a stunning stoppage over 'The Nordic Nightmare' Robert Helenius in the seventh round of their summer showdown at the O2 Arena, London. Then he capped off a successful year with his recent win over Wallin in Riyadh.
That same night, long-term rival Deontay Wilder fell to a third career defeat when outpointed by Joseph Parker, invalidating his proposed mega-fight with Joshua in 2024.
AJ is on a mission to become a three-time world heavyweight champion, targeting a fight against either Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk, who are due to meet in an undisputed clash in February.
While he awaits his shot, the Londoner has been beating his rivals' opponents. He was due to rematch with Dillian Whyte last August so he took on Jermaine Franklin beforehand, in April, and did a better job by outpointing him wider than Whyte was able to, who just scraped past with a slightly dubious mixed decision verdict in 2022. That win set up the rematch with Whyte perfectly, with both boxers defeating the same shared opponent last, but that fight was scuppered after Whyte failed a drugs test, and hasn't been seen in a ring since.
So AJ took on Wilder's prior opponent, Robert Helenius, instead. 'The Bronze Bomber' destroyed the Finn in just one round, and Joshua was able to do the same in the seventh round. Both stoppages came from a one-punch knockout.
Then AJ finished off his most active year since 2016 with a win over Tyson Fury opponent, Wallin. Fury was cut by the Swede with a punch early on during their 2019 fight in Vegas, which later required 47 stitches. The man from Morecombe won the fight unanimously, but he was given a rough ride by his unheralded opponent. Joshua was able to handle the former European Union champion a lot better than his domestic rival.
That bumper show two days before Christmas was filled with big boxing names, and the next offering during Riyadh Season is set to build even further with Deontay Wilder vs Zhilei Zhang rumoured to be featured on the same card.
It was American journalist, Dan Rafael, who reported the Wilder-Zhang fight is being negotiated for March 8. Wilder has only won three from his last seven fights and seems to be on the decline at the advanced age of 38. In his last performance against Parker, he seemed very subdued and unwilling to engage, even coming close to being stopped in the eighth round after being stunned by an overhand right.
Zhang is coming into the fight off the back of two stoppage wins over solid Londoner Joe Joyce, who previously hadn't been hurt by any of his 15 opponents, included the hard-hitting Daniel Dubois.
However, the Chinese southpaw has recently revealed his No.1 target is Joseph Parker read more…
Further details will be publicised in the official press conference, but fight fans are excited by the prospect of another huge boxing card in the first quarter of the New Year.