Joshua – Ngannou: Display of Greatness or Lack of Class?

By Big Terrence Ruth - 03/10/2024 - Comments

Friday night’s “Knockout Chaos” card in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, produced several expected KOs of dangerously overmatched opponents. Former World Champion and Olympic gold-medalist Anthony Joshua’s brutal three-knockdown KO of 0-1 newcomer Francis Ngannou is dominating the headlines of the aptly named event.

While many casual-level fans of Boxing and blood-thirsty MMA fans marvel at the excitement of the highlight reel KO produced by Joshua, puritans of Boxing, long known as The Gentleman’s Sport, are left saddened by what many are calling a lack of class by UK’s Joshua in the dangerous match-up.

Francis Ngannou entered the ring with a Boxing record of 0-1, with zero amateur fights, and a 17-3 record in the UFC. Anthony Joshua began boxing at age five and achieved the highest amateur Boxing honor possible, the Olympic Gold Medal. Although his pro career has been something of a failure, Joshua has managed to acquire multiple vacant world title belts with the help of careful matchmaking. His only losses have been by TKO to underdog Andy Ruiz and dual losses to World Cruiserweight Champion Oleksandr Usyk.

Aside from the criminal advantages in experience and skill, Joshua also enjoyed a critical advantage in age against Ngannou. Ngannou claims to be in his late thirties, a dangerous age even for experienced boxers. Being a Boxing newcomer at this age would not warrant a Boxing license in countries where safety protocols are more important than profits. However, Ngannou comes from a country notorious for inaccurate, corruptible record-keeping, and many believe Francis is actually in his mid-forties.


Francis Ngannou is far from the first inter-discipline athlete to try his hand at Boxing. History has had its share of Basketball players, Footballers, and even WWE athletes trying to work their way through the ranks with minimal to mild success.

  • In 1976, 0-0 Wrestling Champion Antonio Inoki challenged World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali, with Ali treating the match as a light-sparing session and allowing kicks.
  • In 2017, 0-0 MMA Champion Conor McGregor, who had a successful amateur Boxing background, challenged 49-0 World Champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. Mayweather gave McGregor a Boxing lesson, being careful not to land anything significant until late in the fight. At that point, Floyd forced a stoppage of McGregor with an accumulation of mid-power punches, careful not to permanently injure his overmatched opponent. Mayweather displayed similar class and compassion in his exhibition match with YouTube star Logan Paul.
  • In 2023, undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the World and Lineal Champion Tyson Fury, who has won every recognized belt in Boxing and maintains a 100% KO ratio in title defenses, faced the aforementioned Francis Ngannou 0-0. Fury refused to train for the match and gave Ngannou a light-sparring Boxing lesson, displaying the highest class and honoring The Gentleman’s Code. Fury never lost his temper with Ngannou, even after Francis landed an illegal punch behind Fury’s ear and sent him to the canvas. Aside from these examples, Boxing has seen other acts of Gentlemanly conduct, even against qualified opponents.
  • Fighter of the Decade Manny Pacquiao proved to be the beacon of class in his matches against Antonio Margarito and Brandon Rios, refusing to land headshots once they were defenseless and already injured.

Even in the barbaric outlaw UFC culture, where broken bones and disfiguring facial injuries are applauded and rewarded, we have witnessed the gentleman’s code. We have seen top-level fighters sacrifice losses to their records against opponents with Down Syndrome, we have seen fighters refuse to land punches when an opponent is unconscious, and fighters refuse to snap bones when given the opportunity.

The most compelling MMA example is Mike Pantango landing a strike on Jeremy Raser, causing Raser to stagger around the ring helplessly. The referee fails to intervene, and Pantango taps out, taking a loss rather than inflicting more damage on the badly hurt and defenseless fighter. Heavyweight legend Mike Tyson will face novice pro boxer Jake Paul in July 2024, and one can be confident that Tyson will afford Paul a level of compassion much like he did against undersized and aged Roy Jones Jr a few years back.


Unfortunately, combat sports also attract those who lack class or character and take any chance they get to injure another competitor.

  • Deontay Wilder, considered by many to be the hardest puncher in Boxing history, long professed his desire to have a “body” on his record, meaning he wished for an opponent to die due to punches inflicted by Wilder. Wilder has undoubtedly given it his best shot, showing no mercy on hopelessly overmatched opponents and even resorting to life-threatening illegal rabbit punches, resulting in dangerous knockdowns, against Tyson Fury when Wilder could not land legitimate shots on the long-inactive fighter. Wilder displayed his most blatant lack of class when he faced 0-1 Welterweight Charlie Zelenoff in an unsanctioned, gym fight sans headgear. Zelenoff, who suffers from mental health issues, is seen taking a clean power punch from Wilder, sending Zelenoff to the floor. While still down, Wilder attempts to land a full-force uppercut on Zelenoff. Zelenoff easily avoids the cheap shot, and Wilder commences fighting with his own handlers to get to Zelenoff, who, at that point, is trying to escape the gym.
  • In 1999, super heavyweight Eric “Butterbean” Esch faced scripted wrestling star Bart Gunn at Wrestlemania XV. Butterbean showed zero class or compassion, brutally knocking Gunn out with full-powered shots in 35 seconds of round one. Butterbean later showed similar classless behavior when he knocked out comedian Jonny Knoxville with lethal punches to the back of the head during a comedy skit.
  • MMA star Sean Strickland recently made headlines for ruthlessly battering TikTok personality Sneako with unnecessary brutality.

Strangely, YouTube star Jake Paul has taken massive criticism for his highlight reel KOs of MMA fighters in the Boxing ring, even though Paul had never faced a professional Boxer before these victories.

Unfortunately for Anthony Joshua, his unnecessary violence against the overmatched Ngannou has now put him in the same category as these fighters. Joshua is known to be a troubled pugilist who struggles with the mental fortitude required for success at the top level of Boxing. After his second loss to Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, Joshua fully displayed his lack of class, throwing Usyk’s championship belts out of the ring, attacking members of Usyk’s corner, desecrating the Ukrainian flag, and hijacking the ring announcer’s microphone to hurl curse words and gibberish at the family-oriented crowd.

Joshua’s choice of Ngannou as an opponent was not an extraordinary circumstance but a pattern. Joshua has long preyed on carefully chosen fighters to pad his record, displaying fierce bravado and a bully mentality in pre-fight build-ups when the opponent is hopelessly overmatched.

Another pattern Joshua displays is feasting on opponents that Tyson Fury has already beaten, to prove himself the superior fighter should he do better against common opponents. This flawed approach is moderately successful with casual-level fans, but Boxing purists are wise to the maneuver.

Fury vs Joshua has failed to materialize multiple times, beginning with Joshua’s first attempt at a world title belt. Rather than fighting Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury for the true championship, Joshua waited until Fury defeated Klitschko, knowing the IBF would strip the title from Fury immediately.

Joshua then pursued the paper title once it was in the hands of an opponent he felt safe against, unheralded Charles Martin. During their most recent negotiations, Joshua went “radio silent.” He abandoned the talks in favor of checking himself into a mental health treatment facility and undergoing sensory deprivation therapy in hopes of strengthening his mental fortitude. The treatment has been unsuccessful, as Joshua has returned to his old ways of hunting ex-opponents of Fury and is already making plans to vie for the IBF title.

For the second time, the IBF will unceremoniously take the title away from the winner of Fury vs. Usyk to clear the path for Joshua to attain the strap without facing a champion. Joshua’s vicious KO of Ngonnou leaves him looking desperate, weak, classless, and stigmatized by his obvious avoidance of a fight with Tyson Fury and transparent attempt to trick casual-level fans into comparing his performance against common opponents rather than demanding him to fight Fury in the ring.


If Joshua’s plan of waiting for a vacant title to emerge after Fury and Usyk unify all the belts fails, Joshua’s options will be limited. Joshua has already second-guessed facing Deontay Wilder, whom Tyson Fury has already knocked out multiple times, due to the dangers presented by Wilder’s devastating punching power. The IBF should face a harsh backlash from fans if they immediately strip the title from Fury or Usyk once we have an official undisputed Heavyweight Champion. Stripping the belt for Joshua is a money move by the IBF, who understand Joshua’s marketability among casual-level fans.

The Boxing community needs to come together to boycott any future IBF title fights if they once again commit this treasonous act against the sport of Boxing. If Joshua does not have a vacant title he can vie for against the opponent of his choice, he will have only one option to earn the title of Champion. Either face Usyk, whom he’s already lost to twice, or face Fury, whom he’s been avoiding for more than a decade. If he continues on the path of facing winless Boxers and inter-discipline fighters, Joshua has some stiff competition. YouTube star Jake Paul has already set the bar too high and pout-performed Joshua with his one-punch KO of UFC Champion Tyrone Woodley. Even in Joshua’s victory over dangerously overmatched Ngannou, it took three flush-shot knockdowns to finish the MMA contender.

One great option for Joshua would be to enter the Olympics again. The shocking new rule allowing professional Boxers to enter the Olympics could be a blessing for Joshua. He can terrorize the amateur kids and score the most devastating knockouts in Olympic history. Joshua fans will be delighted, proclaiming Joshua the most outstanding combat sportsman in history. However, suppose Joshua continues his obsession with beating Tyson Fury without fighting him. In that case, even casual-level fans will soon realize that Joshua has already lost at his own game due to the flawed ideology behind outperforming Fury against common opponents. Tyson Fury beat Dillian Whyte, who beat Joseph Parker, who beat Andy Ruiz, who knocked out Anthony Joshua. If Joshua wants to beat Tyson Fury, he must do it in the Boxing ring.

Anthony Joshua is a fine athlete with tremendous physical skills. It is honorable and promising that he acknowledges his mental shortcomings and is making attempts to improve himself in that category. Hopefully, he soon realizes that if he wants respect, he will get more of that in a loss to Fury than by giving more black eyes to the sport of Boxing, displaying desperation, classlessness, chasing vacant title belts, and looking like a mentally weak bully trying to prove himself against the weak while avoiding the real champions in Boxing.