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Homechevron_rightMiddle Eastchevron_rightSaudi Arabiachevron_rightAnthony Joshua knocks...

Anthony Joshua knocks out MMA star Francis Ngannou in one-sided boxing match

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Anthony Joshua knocks out MMA star Francis Ngannou in one-sided boxing match
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Former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has now won his last three fights before accepting this meeting with Francis Ngannou, whose talent and name recognition turned it into a big-money matchup. (Reuters)

Riyadh: Former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua stopped Francis Ngannou in the second round on Saturday, dominating his matchup with the ex-UFC heavyweight champ. Joshua floored Ngannou in the first round and again in the second with right hands at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh. He finished the fight with one punch immediately after the second 10-count, apparently knocking Ngannou out cold with an unblocked right hand.

The 37-year-old Ngannou eventually got up to his stool, but the mixed martial arts star was dazed and clearly hurt after his encounter with Joshua (28-3, 25 KOs) in only his second pro boxing match. Joshua and Ngannou embraced and talked afterwards.

“I told him he shouldn’t leave boxing,” Joshua said. “He can do well. Remember, he’s two fights in, and he’s fought the best. He can go a long way if he stays dedicated, but it’s up to him.”

The fight world had optimism for Ngannou after he gave an impressive performance in a near-upset with Tyson Fury last October, losing by a narrow split decision. Joshua quickly proved there’s no substitute for years of boxing experience — and possibly revealed just how lightly Fury treated his bout with Ngannou last fall.

Joshua came out to control the distance with his famously sharp jab, but Ngannou got in a few good shots early. Joshua abruptly floored Ngannou with less than a minute left in the first round, firing a straight right hand through Ngannou’s patchy guard.

Ngannou went down again from an unblocked right hand in an exchange early in the second. He got up shakily, and Joshua quickly ended the punishment.

Joshua has held multiple world heavyweight titles in a successful professional career following his gold medal-winning performance in the London Olympics, but the Englishman had to rebuild his reputation after losing his three title belts in the first of consecutive losses to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021 and 2022.

Now 34, Joshua won his last three fights before accepting this meeting with Ngannou, whose talent and name recognition turned it into a big-money matchup.

Ngannou began his pro boxing career last year after a mixed martial arts career in which he claimed the UFC’s heavyweight belt in 2021 and defended it in 2022.

The Cameroon native then walked away from the UFC due to contractual disagreements and signed an innovative deal with the Professional Fighters League. Although he has yet to fight for the rival promotion, Ngannou is expected to take on PFL heavyweight champ Renan Ferreira later this year.

But Ngannou was enticed by the big paydays of pay-per-view boxing, and he put on an outstanding performance in his ring debut while fighting heavyweight kingpin Fury to a split-decision loss in Saudi Arabia. Ngannou knocked down Fury in the third round and challenged him throughout a defeat that showed Ngannou was much more dangerous than any other MMA fighter who has made the recently fashionable move into boxing.

The result sparked interest in Ngannou as a legitimate contender in the heavyweight division, which promotional clashes and ego-driven disputes have repeatedly hurt during an era featuring impressive talents who haven’t fought each other as often as they should.

The main event didn’t begin in Riyadh until after 3:30 a.m. — even an hour later than the planned start time, which was set in deference to the European and North American viewing markets.

On the undercard, heavyweight Joseph Parker rebounded from getting knocked down twice to claim a majority decision over Zhilei Zhang. WBC featherweight champion fought to a split draw with Nick Ball.

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