Joseph Parker stopped all plans for Anthony Joshua’s next fight when he beat former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in impressive fashion last month.
All three boxers competed on the Day of Reckoning card in Saudi Arabia on Christmas Eve, with reports suggesting Joshua and Wilder had already agreed to a fight in early March this year should they both win their respective bouts.
In the main event, Joshua delivered an emphatic knockout win over Otto Wallin, but at that point his immediate future had already been thrown for a spin as Parker put on a boxing clinic to beat Wilder in a lopsided decision.
However, it won’t be Parker who gets the chance to take Wilder’s place in the ring and avenge his 2018 loss to Joshua next.
Respected combat sports journalist Ariel Helwani reported on Saturday that Joshua will instead fight former UFC champion Francis Ngannou in his next fight. Joshua’s promoters Matchroom Boxing have since confirmed the fight.
MMA Junkie reports the bout has been set for March 9, and has been agreed upon by both sides, while an official press conference is expected to take place later this month to make things official.
The bout sees Ngannou step into the ring with another athlete to have held a world title, after making an impressive start to his boxing career in a split decision loss to Tyson Fury last year. It was his first professional boxing bout after making a name for himself as arguably the hardest hitter in mixed martial arts, and he lived up to that tag as he was able to put Fury on the canvas during their bout.
While he lost, the WBC had seen enough in him to rank him at No 10 in the world, and was one of three potential opponents Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn had in mind for Joshua after the Wilder fight fell apart.
Francis Ngannou knocked Tyson Fury down but ultimately fell to a split decision loss in his professional boxing debut. Photo / Getty Images
The other two – Filip Hrgovic and Zhieli Zhang – might now shape up as interesting prospects for Parker as he looks to continue his rise back into title contention.
Zhang, who goes by the moniker of ‘Big Bang’ as a nod to his explosive style in the ring, is another in the line of heavyweights hoping for a shot at Fury, Joshua, Hrgovic or Oleksandr Usyk, but has confirmed he would be up for a date with Parker, and told Boxing Scene he would be willing to put his title as interim WBO world champion on the line against the Kiwi.
“Right now, he’s hot. Everybody is looking at him like he’s really good,” Zhang said.
“If I can’t get any of those guys then Joseph Parker would be a good option.”
While it remains to be seen what is next for Hrgovic, the mandatory IBF challenger, Fury (WBC) and Usyk (WBA, WBO, IBF) will meet in Saudi Arabia next month in a bout that will crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 1999, and it is expected the pair will meet twice with a two-way rematch clause in the contract.
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