Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou: Early check on the betting for this heavyweight special

Boxer Anthony Joshua
Anthony Joshua is expected to KO Francis Ngannou

The countdown is on to Joshua v Ngannou in Saudi Arabia. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse reflects on some famous crossover bouts and the early betting here...

  • Anthony Joshua boasts 24 KO wins

  • Francis Ngannou is a former UFC champion

  • Ngannou took Fury 10 rounds

  • As we draw ever closer to Anthony Joshua's blockbuster against Francis Ngannou, attention turns to the betting. Traders working on the Betfair Sportsbook make the Englishman 1/51.20 favourite to win, while Exchange users follow that example, eager to keep AJ close.

    Joshua and Ngannou will meet at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on Friday 8 March, an eagerly anticipated match-up that pairs a former world boxing champion with a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ruler.

    The pre-fight odds suggest AJ need only turn up to secure win number 28 of his career, but after seeing Ngannou dump current WBC champion Tyson Fury on the seat of his pants, fans know not to take the Cameroonian lightly.

    Three memorable crossover bouts

    Joshua fighting an MMA champion under professional boxing rules is strange, but sadly, it's not unique in modern boxing. Followers of the noble art have watched several high-profile MMA fighters move into the squared circle, each eager to gamble and fight some of the best names in boxing.

    The biggest and best-known crossover fight in combat sports remains Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor in 2017. That clash brought together two great salesmen, and they combined their efforts to make their night one of the biggest-selling pay-per-view bouts in recent history.

    All the talk during the build-up focused on McGregor's power, with fans believing if Notorious landed, he'd KO the fast-talking American. Instead, Floyd took him to school before ending things in round 10.

    Another crossover that wasn't as popular as Mayweather v McGregor but proved every bit as interesting was Ray Mercer v Tim Sylvia in 2009. Former heavyweight boxing champion Mercer was the favourite against one-time UFC champion Sylvia in the octagon. Boxing again came out on top, with Mercer scoring a dramatic first-round KO victory, taking a leg kick to land a stunning overhand right, rendering Sylvia unconscious in seconds.

    Fury boxed Ngannou in Saudi Arabia for the African's debut, and despite being written off by followers of both sports, Francis almost caused a monumental upset.

    He knocked Fury to the canvas in round three with a perfectly timed hook, but the Gypsy King rose to his feet to score a highly contentious split decision points win. It was a painful near miss for Ngannou, but will he go one better against Joshua in March?

    AJ will continue winning ways

    Joshua enters his meeting with Ngannou in a seemingly no-win scenario. Beat Ngannou by KO/TKO, and it would've been a pointless exercise against a man with just one previous boxing bout on his record. Beat him on points, and critics will say an MMA fighter should never last the distance against a heavyweight boxer in their prime.

    Lose to Ngannou, like Fury almost did, and it could be the end of the line for Joshua as a credible title challenger.

    The Londoner must do as expected, keep it simple, and meet fire with fire. Fury opted to box Ngannou and try to put on something of an exhibition, but a dogged and determined opponent gave him a rude awakening. Joshua must go on the front foot, keep his defence tight, and throw to get his opponent out of there.

    Ngannou will be at his most dangerous during the early exchanges of the contest, meaning we're likely to see AJ box-smart for two or three rounds before putting on the pressure and landing his big shots. I expect Joshua to catapult himself back into the limelight with a showreel KO.

    Joshua v Ngannou odds

    The fight is still a few weeks away, and both gladiators are deep in their training camps. But that doesn't mean we can't make predictions and gamble on the outcome. Pick the winning fighter, play the method of victory market for a shot at bigger odds, or browse the many specials and uncover something interesting that matches your research.

    Joshua is the pre-bout betting favourite in the fight-winner market, with odds of 1/51.20 available at the Betfair Sportsbook.

    Fancy the Brit to get the job done in style? Aim higher and back AJ by KO/TKO at 2/51.40, or chance your luck on the points win at 5/16.00. Remember, Ngannou lost on points to a UK heavyweight late last year.

    Francis to use the hurt of that narrow defeat against Fury to propel him to a career-defining win over AJ? You can back Ngannou to bag this bout at an eye-catching 7/24.50 while the draw is 20/121.00.

    Let's not forget backers of the level finish got a run for their money in Ngannou's boxing debut. A knockout win for Francis is 4/15.00, or you can try the points verdict at a chunky 19/120.00.

    Now read more UK Sport previews and tips here.

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