Anthony Joshua knocks out Francis Ngannou in second round in Riyadh

MMA fighter Francis Ngannou, right, falls during his fight with British former world champion Anthony Joshua, of the heavyweight boxing showdown at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, March 9, 2024. (AP Photo)
MMA fighter Francis Ngannou (right) falls during his fight with British former world champion Anthony Joshua. Credit: AP

British former world champion Anthony Joshua knocked out Francis Ngannou in the second round of the MMA fighter's second professional boxing match last night.

Joshua floored the former UFC champion in the first round in Saudi Arabia with a right hand to the chin then again early in the second with a right-left hook combination.

Ngannou got to his feet but was quickly put back down by a strong right hand, after which the referee put a stop to the contest in Riyadh.

The 37-year-old, who performed well in losing narrowly on points to WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in what had been his only previous fight, started brightly again, holding his own well for much of the first round.

He was put on the canvas by Joshua with about a minute to go in the round, beating the count at nine and making it back to his feet to see out the final 40 seconds.

However, when he was knocked down again in the second round there appeared to be little chance of Ngannou continuing, and after struggling back up he was quickly knocked out by a big right hand to put an end to the contest in Joshua’s favour.

After the match, Joshua says he told his opponent 'he shouldn't leave boxing'. Credit: AP

Ngannou required oxygen in the ring as he was attended to by medics in the immediate aftermath, before recovering to leave the ring unaided.

For Joshua it is now four wins in a row as he put himself in prime position to meet the winner of the May 18 fight between Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

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 fighting sports world had optimism for Ngannou after he gave an impressive performance in a near-upset of Fury last October.

Joshua celebrates with his father Robert after his win. Credit: AP

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

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know