Francis Ngannou could go from one titanic heavyweight matchup to another.
The former UFC champion made a spectacular boxing debut this past October, going 10 rounds with Tyson Fury and narrowly losing a split decision in a bout that saw him score a dramatic third-round knockdown of boxing’s heavyweight king.
Despite the loss, Ngannou’s stock rose after the thrilling performance, and Matchroom Boxing boss Eddie Hearn is keeping an eye on the PFL fighter as a potential opponent for prized client Anthony Joshua.
“So right now we have three fights that we’re in discussions for,” Hearn told iFL TV. “They’re all big and that doesn’t involve Deontay Wilder for March. Our aim, and we’ve expressed this, is to fight the winner of Fury-Usyk. That’s all we want to do. Obviously, there’s the [Filip] Hrgovic fight out there for the world heavyweight title. There’s a Francis Ngannou fight out there, which would be absolutely colossal. There’s other heavyweights as well. The [Zhilei] Zhang fight possibly as well with Queensbury.”
“[Joseph] Parker, yeah, possibly. It’s difficult. We fought Parker, beat him, unified against him, it was five years ago whatever it was, but Joseph’s definitely earned the right for a big fight. He’s just beaten Deontay Wilder, so we don’t rule that out either.”
The top of the heavyweight boxing picture took shape at the Dec. 23 Day of Reckoning event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with Joshua defeating Otto Wallin the main event, Joseph Parker winning a one-sided decision against a listless Wilder, and Filip Hrgovic and Frank Sanchez earning wins against overmatched competition.
Wilder’s loss to Parker threw a wrench in the plans to have Joshua and Wilder face off at the end of the night, but Hearn is fine with putting that matchup on the back burner.
“The fight’s dead for right now,” Hearn said. “You never know what’s going to happen in the future, but we both signed contracts to announce the fight that night, obviously subject to everybody winning. So when Wilder lost, it was like, what the f***? We had to go into the change room with Josh and he was like, ‘He just lost?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah. Look, don’t worry about that, you do your thing’ and he did his thing outstandingly and the fight is dead for now.
“Who knows what else could happen in the future? Literally, since I left the venue that night to about 20 minutes ago I’ve been speaking to His Excellency [Turki Alalshikh] non-stop to decide what we’re going to do. Obviously, AJ’s a hot commodity right now, you’ve got Fury and Usyk already locked in, but we’re planning our next move and those conversations have been evolving since that night as we plan a busy 2024.”
Fury and Oleksandr Usyk square off in February for undisputed heavyweight champion status, with Riyadh serving as host. Should Fury defeat Usyk, he may end up in a rematch with Ngannou, though Hearn believes that Joshua has earned the right to take on the winner of that clash.
“With all due respect, we do have a plan,” Hearn said. “These are all great heavyweights. Andy Ruiz, Frank Sanchez, Joseph Parker, but really the only thing that AJ wants to do is be in massive fights, win the world heavyweight title, and fight Tyson Fury or get another crack at Usyk. That’s what [Joshua trainer] Ben [Davison] wants, Ben wants another crack at Usyk.
“For me, obviously, I’d love the Fury fight. When you look at fighting March, fighting in September, maybe two fights against the Fury-Usyk winner, you’re talking four or five fights down the line, that may be it. He looked amazing last week, but five fights is another year and a half, maybe two years, so how much longer are you going to go? Right now, we’re really excited for that 2024.”