Joshua takes out Ngannou with crushing KO finish in Round 2



Anthony Joshua scored a spectacular knockout of Francis Ngannou in Round 2 of their heavyweight bout Friday night in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a right hand that landed clean on the former UFC heavyweight champion's chin and rendered him unconscious.

After Ngannou regained his senses, ringside officials administered oxygen to the 37-year-old, who was boxing for just the second time.

England's Joshua, 34, scored a knockdown in the opening round with a right hand, and Ngannou appeared to be unsteady after he beat the count. Joshua produced another knockdown in Round 2, an equilibrium shot that connected on Ngannou's left ear.

Moments after Ngannou rose from the second knockdown, Joshua planted him on the canvas for good with a perfectly placed straight right that landed flush. Ngannou's leg bent awkwardly under him as all 272½ pounds of the MMA fighter fell to the canvas in a heap.

"On the route to the championship you should always stay focused," said Joshua, a former two-time heavyweight champion. "This was me stepping aside from that mission. ... But when I saw [Ngannou] and the fight against Tyson Fury, I was like 'damn, this guy can fight' so I said I need a piece of that.

"He's an inspiration. ... He's a great champion. This doesn't take away anything of his capabilities because in boxing it's one or the other. He can come again."

Anthony Joshua floored Francis Ngannou three times Friday night, ending their fight with a perfectly placed straight right in Round 2. Richard Pelham/Getty Images
Anthony Joshua floored Francis Ngannou three times Friday night, ending their fight with a perfectly placed straight right in Round 2. Richard Pelham/Getty Images

Ngannou took to social media after the loss, posting on X, "Sorry guys I let you all down. Today was a bad day in the office but tomorrow will be another day. Thank you all for the love."

Ngannou (0-2) shocked the sporting world in October when he faced Fury, ESPN's No. 1 heavyweight, and dropped him in Round 3 en route to a split-decision loss. A native of Cameroon, Ngannou is considered among the UFC's all-time best heavyweights, but it was still a major surprise that he was able to hang with the best heavyweight boxer in the world.

Joshua (28-3, 25 KOs) was set to fight fellow former champion Deontay Wilder on this date before Joseph Parker scored an upset win over Wilder in December. On that same card, Joshua scored a fourth-round TKO victory over Otto Wallin.

With Wilder out of the mix, Ngannou stepped in for an unprecedented second pro boxing match against one of the sport's elite. This performance didn't go nearly as well as the first one.

"He believed in his dreams and he followed it," Fury said. "He made a s--- ton of money, which is fantastic to support his family. He had a great journey. Keep going if he wants to box. ... He's still undefeated as a champion in MMA. Just because he got beat here tonight, he can go back to MMA and destroy that world again. ... Keep your chin high."

Ngannou's last MMA bout took place in January 2022, when he defeated Ciryl Gane via decision to retain his UFC heavyweight championship. He parted ways with the organization afterward over a disagreement on his financial value and signed with PFL.

But Ngannou has yet to compete in the PFL and told ESPN on Sunday that he's unsure if he'll have an MMA fight this year. That, of course, was before he was summarily dismissed by Joshua in a boxing ring.

"I told him he shouldn't leave boxing," Joshua said. "He can do well. Remember, he's two fights in, and he fought the best."

Joshua is ESPN's No. 3 heavyweight. The Olympic gold medalist won his first title in 2016 and made six defenses -- including wins over Wladimir Klitschko and Parker -- before he was stopped by Andy Ruiz in seven rounds in one of the glamour division's all-time biggest upsets.

Joshua reclaimed his three titles from Ruiz via decision later that year in Riyadh and, following one successful defense, was outpointed by Oleksandr Usyk in 2021. Usyk defeated Joshua a second time via decision in the 2022 rematch.

Joshua hooked up with trainer Derrick James following the two losses to Usyk and went on to defeat Jermain Franklin and Robert Helenius last year. Joshua again changed his corner ahead of the December bout against Wallin, linking up with former Fury trainer Ben Davison, and he appeared rejuvenated.

Joshua returned to his seek-and-destroy style in December, breaking Wallin's nose and forcing him to retire on his stool.

Following an explosive knockout victory over Ngannou, there's no doubt Joshua has fully regained the confidence that appeared lost in the aftermath of the defeats to Ruiz and Usyk.

"He destroyed Francis Ngannou," said Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn. "The best heavyweight in the world, and I can't wait for him to beat Tyson Fury."

For now, the world's best heavyweight will be determined May 18 in Riyadh when Fury meets Usyk for the undisputed championship. They're lined up for a rematch later this year, too.

But if Fury can emerge victorious from the series of fights, the long-awaited showdown with Joshua could finally materialize.

"It's me and Usyk who fight for the No. 1 and No. 2 position and the undisputed championship of the world," Fury said.

He added: "I had a s--- performance against Ngannou. I've never said anything different. ... [Joshua] knocked him out and that's what a boxer should've done to him. If [Joshua] fights me in the future after I'm done with Usyk twice next year, it'll be a different thing."

Keywords: Boxing

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