In his latest column, the former Olympian and heavyweight contender reacts to confirmation of Anthony Joshua’s showdown with Francis Ngannou in March and a huge light-heavyweight showdown this weekend between Callum Smith and Artur Beterbiev.
AJ must do a better job on Ngannou than Fury
Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou was confirmed out of nowhere last week. Like Tyson Fury did, ‘AJ’ will probably take a bit of flack but make no mistake – anyone in the division would take that fight.
Anthony has seen an opportunity here. These guys are global superstars. This fight appeals to a wider scope of fans in addition to regular boxing fans and there is so much money to be made. I know myself if the opportunity to do something like that ever came my way, I would jump on it too.
Ngannou shocked the world with his debut performance against Tyson Fury last year. As impressive as it was, there will be no surprises about him this time around. That element of mystery has gone, we have seen what he is capable of and what he is not capable of. I would expect Anthony Joshua to win and win well in this one.
Having seen the power this man possesses in both hands, ‘AJ’ will not be taking it lightly like Fury did – he is too well-schooled for that. Ngannou has earned a lot of respect and of course this is heavyweight boxing, anything can happen.
This man went 10 rounds with the lineal heavyweight champion and had him down and almost out so he will not be underestimating him and they will be preparing for every possibility.
Joshua of course will be the favourite but this is another where we just don’t know what can happen and that is exactly what sells the fight.
Huge fight, but not ideal preparation for Hrgovic
Joshua had a brilliant 2023 and finished it so well, demolishing a really skilled fighter in Otto Wallin. With this fight, we are talking about a man who has one professional fight and one professional loss. Joshua will be looking towards world titles after this fight.
On paper, is Ngannou the ideal preparation for Filip Hrgovic, or maybe even the winner of Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk? Probably not. It is a very different type of fight and I think we will see that in how Joshua goes to work in fight camp. No doubt he will be working with some big, athletic guys.
It’s not ideal preparation for those fights previously mentioned but when the numbers on the table are as big as they are for this, the regular plan goes out the window.
Those other fights will be bigger tests for sure but for now all is focus will be on Ngannou. The biggest incentive is to go in there and do a better job on him than Fury managed. I believe he will do that.
After this, I think he will be looking at Hrgovic, when that IBF belt is likely to be available again. Three great wins on the bounce have underlined AJ’s position in this heavyweight division again and this fight enhances that further.
It sets him up for a big fight in the summer and then possibly the Fury vs Usyk winner. This could be the year he becomes heavyweight champion of the world again.
Smith goes down in history if he beats Beterbiev
Before all that, there is a huge clash at light-heavyweight with Callum Smith looking to dethrone WBC, IBF and WBO king Arthur Beterbiev on Saturday. It is an incredible fight. Both are so skilled. Callum has only lost once in a great career, that coming against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and obviously there is no shame in that.
Of course, Beterbiev is the favourite. As that perfect knockout record proves, he just flattens everyone. You just cannot sleep on Callum Smith. He has a better chance of beating Beterbiev than anyone else the champion has ever fought before.
But it is a huge challenge. He is up against a freak of nature, a pound-for-pound great and one of the biggest killers in the sport. He goes through people for fun.
It’s a huge challenge but let’s hope Callum can write his name into history. If he were to do the unthinkable, I would be right up among the biggest successes in British boxing. Beat Beterbiev, away from home no less, and you are going down in history.
I’d love to see him and Anthony Yarde later in the year. Yarde is a fighter who I am backing to have a huge 2024 and I would love to see that fight.
Fabio Wardley and the British title in my sights
I’m hopeful of big things for myself in 2024. Fabio Wardley and the British title remains the goal and I’m eager for that to happen sooner rather than later.
Negotiations so far have gone very well and I think together we can deliver one of the biggest all-British fights of the year.
All the big heavyweight fights are landing in Saudi at the moment and of course there is a huge amount of money to be made over there. But at the same time, I am very aware of where home is.
I’m very aware of the paying public in this country who have supported me so far in this journey. I want to be able to entertain them as well.
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