Eddie Hearn: “AJ Against Ngannou Is A Bigger Fight Than Fury-Usyk”
By Adam Baskin: Eddie Hearn says he feels that Anthony Joshua against Francis Ngannou is a bigger fight in boxing than next year’s undisputed heavyweight championship bout between IBF/WBA/WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk & Tyson Fury.
The former two-time heavyweight champion Joshua (26-3, 23 KOs) is fun to watch because he’s either scoring a knockout or losing to someone you’d least expect.
You never know what you’ll get with Joshua because he can look like a powerful knockout artist in one fight and turn around and appear washed up, making fans think, ‘This guy is shot to bits. He needs to retire already.‘
Still, even at Joshua’s worst, he’s infinitely more entertaining to watch than Usyk & Fury, who are very boring inside the ring.
Ngannou’s punching power and counter-punching ability make him fun to watch. Plus, he’s got a massive MMA fan base, who will turn out in large numbers to see him & Joshua mix it up.
Why Ngannou-Joshua bigger than Fury-Usyk:
A. Tyson Fury’s popularity plummeted after his war with Francis Ngannou last Saturday night, which the fans overwhelmingly saw him losing. Fury’s fighting style tends to be on the dull side, involving weak jabs, leaning, and grappling, along with roughhouse tactics. It’s not really thrilling stuff that makes you want to watch him fight. The best part about Fury is outside of the ring, when he jokes around, acting crazy.
B. Oleksandr Usyk is not a star in the U.S or UK. He’s well-known with hardcore boxing fans, but casuals don’t know who he is. Hardcore fans are lukewarm about their interest in Usyk because he’s a pure boxer, and his fights tend to be chess matches rather than thrilling affairs.
“In most people’s minds, he won that fight. If he didn’t, he lost the fight by a round,” said Eddie Hearn to iFL TV about his view that Francis Ngannou defeated Tyson Fury.
“In Tyson Fury’s own words, ‘He just gave me my toughest fight in the last ten years.’ I think he’s [Ngannou] earned his right and credibility to be in another big heavyweight fight.”
Ngannou was the toughest fight for Fury since his first fight with Deontay Wilder in 2018, which the referee Jack Reiss saved him by not stopping the fight in the twelfth round. Fury owes Reiss a lot of thanks for not doing what 100% of the referees would have done if they had a fighter knocked unconscious.
They have no choice but to immediately waive off a fight when a fighter is knocked cold, as Fury was, but Reiss didn’t do that and allowed Tyson to get up and finish the twelfth on his feet to salvage a draw.
“I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket saying, ‘Oh, we must fight Francis Ngannou.’ If that fight came to AJ now, which is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, fight in the whole of boxing, my advice to Anthony Joshua is to take that fight,” said Hearn.
The Saudis will likely be the ones that decide who Ngannou fights next. If they want to see Ngannou vs. Joshua, they’ll express interest. They reportedly have an interest in Ngannou, but whether they would want to have Joshua involved is questionable.
It’s not a good sign that they didn’t stage the Joshua-Wilder fight in their country, which could mean they’re no longer interested in Joshua’s fights due to his poor record in the last four years, with his three defeats in his last five fights. Why would the Saudis want to host a Joshua fight with his 2-3 record since 2019?
“One, he [Joshua] beats him [Francis] comfortably, and two, it’s massive. I don’t think Fury-Usyk is. AJ against Ngannou is a bigger fight than Fury-Usyk, in my opinion,” said Hearn. “AJ against Fury is arguable, but Fury is contracted to fight Usyk, so it can’t even happen. I wish it did. I’ll tell you something right now. AJ knocks out Tyson Fury.”
It’s questionable whether Joshua beats Ngannou at this late stage of his career, considering his recent string of losses and his timid style of fighting. If this fight were to have happened between 2013 and 2016, that version of Joshua would likely beat Ngannou by a quick knockout, but not now.
Joshua’s scared, indecisive fighting style would give Ngannou plenty of opportunities to jump on him early to score a knockout. It would potentially ruin what’s left of Joshua’s career, leaving him little option but to retire.
“He [Joshua] wants to win the world heavyweight championship,” said Hearn. “That’s the most important thing to him. So, we’re looking at the IBF situation. If that belt frees up, how are you do you position for that? He’d like the Wilder fight. That’s a massive fight. He’s not called me about Ngannou.
“This is me talking, but if that fight emerged, that’s a huge fight. My advice is, ‘Take it, take the fight.’ 100%,” said Hearn when asked if he would make the Joshua vs. Ngannou fight next if possible.
It might be better for Hearn to hold off on trying to put Joshua in with Ngannou and instead continue to wait until Fury is available to fight AJ in 2025. Fury is booked up solid for 2024 with two fights with Usyk and likely a rematch with Ngannou, so he won’t be free for a fight with AJ until 2025.