Former unified heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis has once again criticised Anthony Joshua for choosing Francis Ngannou to face him in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 8.
Lewis claimed that his compatriot was losing credibility by choosing the Cameroonian as his rival. The legendary British boxer is in the news not for what he achieved almost 25 years ago, but because he couldn’t resist when asked about fellow countryman Anthony Joshua’s choice of Francis Ngannou for his next fight.
According to Lewis, Joshua is losing credibility and, with his countryman returning to boxing after a period of inactivity for personal reasons, his opponents should be of a higher calibre. Joshua has fought three times in 2023. He has won each time, most recently against Otto Wallin. Now, for his fight on March 8, he has chosen the recently arrived Cameroonian Ngannou. Ngannou has only one professional fight under his belt, against Tyson Fury, in which he stood up to the champion in every round and left Fury on his knees.
That fight gave him enough confidence for Joshua to put his name in the ring with him. Both men are set to earn a huge purse for the Riyadh event. Ngannou is a martial arts specialist. He is a former MMA cage champion who moved up to the UFC heavyweight division. In 2021, he defeated Stipe Miocic to become UFC champion, but he later left the UFC. He has only lost three fights in the UFC and is now looking to make a name for himself.
It’s not the first time Lewis has criticised Joshua for some of his decisions he’s made. He did so in 2018 when Joshua was one of the top boxers at the moment and the momentum was in favour of a fight with Fury or Wilder, two of the most powerful boxers at the time who Joshua was unwilling to face. As far as Lewis is concerned, Joshua’s real rivals at the moment are Fury and Zhang Zhilei, who holds the interim WBO heavyweight title. Joshua’s decision is somewhat reflective of the direction boxing has taken in recent times, with many boxers seeking spectacle and big paydays rather than any other official goal with belts and legacy on the line.
It’s a general trend, and not just AJ’s, and it’s reflected in the fight with Ngannou, an opponent who can be attractive but at other times hasn’t earned the merit needed in other times to be given opportunities like this. But that fight, or a series of fights over the next few months, has set up some interesting match-ups. Wilder’s underperformance in Saudi Arabia last December meant Joshua couldn’t fight him the next time around. He had to find another opponent. And, of course, Fury is busy with the most eagerly awaited fight of all, against Usyk on February 17, again in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom Arena will be the site of the ‘Ring of Fire’, as the fight has been dubbed. It will make history. There is barely a month to go before both fighters put a huge chunk of their careers on the line. Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) and Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) will put their belts on the line. The Briton is defending his WBC title in that division, while the Ukrainian is defending his WBA, WBO and IBF belts. Less than a month to go.