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Anthony Joshua beats Francis Ngannou with devastating early knockout to send message

Brutal knockout: Anthony Joshua produced an enormous right hand to defeat Francis Ngannou (Getty Images)
Brutal knockout: Anthony Joshua produced an enormous right hand to defeat Francis Ngannou (Getty Images)

Anthony Joshua produced a devastating early knockout of Francis Ngannou to send a shuddering message to the likes of rivals Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk in the heavyweight division.

After an initially confident start from Ngannou on only his second professional boxing outing after he shocked the world by flooring Fury in October before dropping a controversial decision, the former UFC heavyweight champion was sent to the canvas in the first round after a punishing right hand from Joshua in Friday night’s huge main event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The two-time former unified heavyweight champion then knocked down Ngannou again with another powerful right in the second round, his opponent - who had been showing flashes of intent and trying to hold the centre of the ring - just beating the referee’s count before quickly being knocked out cold by a brutal overhand right in one of the most destructive stoppages seen in recent times - more than living up the ‘Knockout Chaos’ moniker for the event.

Ngannou was quickly attended to after such a damaging finish, receiving oxygen as he was helped onto a stool before thankfully getting to his feet and embracing Joshua, who again reiterated his desire to meet the winner of the undisputed showdown between reigning heavyweight champions Usyk and Fury, rescheduled for May 18 in Riyadh after a nasty cut sustained by Fury in sparring led to the postponement of their initial February date.

However, both Usyk - who has already beaten Joshua twice - and Fury have rematch clauses in their contracts, so it’ll be a while yet until a meeting with Joshua can happen for either man.

Those rematch clauses also mean that the winner of the first Usyk-Fury fight will likely have to vacate the IBF title instead of facing mandatory challenger Filip Hrgovic.

Joshua to face unbeaten Croatian contender Hrgovic for the IBF gold - the first world title Joshua ever won by knocking out American Charles Martin at London’s O2 Arena in 2016 - could feasibly be a possibility for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist later this year.

Anthony Joshua supplied one of the most devastating knockouts you will ever see (Getty Images)
Anthony Joshua supplied one of the most devastating knockouts you will ever see (Getty Images)

Headlining Friday’s busy undercard, Joseph Parker recovered from two heavy knockdowns to claim another huge win against Joe Joyce’s conqueror Zhilei Zhang, winning the WBO interim heavyweight title in the process and putting himself right in the mix for another full title challenge after following up his stunning win over Deontay Wilder before Christmas.

Former WBO champion Parker was the first man to take Joshua the distance as a professional as he lost a decision in Cardiff in 2018 and many feel that he now deserves an opportunity to try and avenge that defeat, though first he must fight Zhang again in a contracted rematch.

Joshua had been finally set to meet long-time rival Wilder on Friday before the latter’s comprehensive loss to Parker on the same December card on which Joshua delivered a dominant fifth-round stoppage of Otto Wallin.

Joshua also saw another instalment of his rivalry with bitter foe Dillian Whyte cancelled last August, but Whyte has now been cleared to return to the ring and will make his return against Christian Hammer in Ireland next weekend.

Elsewhere in Riyadh, Liverpool’s Nick Ball was controversially denied his first world title despite a stunning comeback against Rey Vargas during which he twice knocked down the much taller Mexican, who ended up clinging onto his WBC featherweight crown thanks to a split draw that left promoter Frank Warren furious.

Could Joseph Parker get another crack at Joshua after beating Zhilei Zhang? (Getty Images)
Could Joseph Parker get another crack at Joshua after beating Zhilei Zhang? (Getty Images)

Uzbekistan’s Israil ‘The Dream’ Madrimov produced a dominant display against the previously undefeated Russian Magomed Kurbanov to win the vacant WBA super-welterweight title recently stripped from former undisputed champion Jermell Charlo, while Mark Chamberlain brushed aside British rival Gavin Gwynne - who suffered a grotesque injury around his right eye early on - to pick up the WBA Intercontinental lightweight belt.

Australian heavyweight Justis Huni withstood a last-gasp rally from South Africa’s Kevin Lerena to open up the main undercard with a victory, after Tyson and Tommy Fury had both watched brother Roman notch up a fourth professional win against Martin Svarc of the Czech Republic and Louis ‘The Medway Mauler’ Greene produced a devastating first-round knockout of Jack McGann.

The early prelim card saw Saudi Arabia’s first professional boxer Ziyad Almaayouf outpoint experienced Mexican Christian Lopez Flores and Ukraine’s Andrii Novytskyi stop Juan Torres in the first heavyweight bout of the night.