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After nearly upsetting Tyson Fury last year in his professional boxing debut, more and more members of the sport’s community are saying that Francis Ngannou can pose a serious challenge to Anthony Joshua when they clash in March.

Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion, was dismissed as a rank outsider in his fight with Fury in October but after felling the giant ‘Gypsy King’ with a crushing left hook in the third, it seems Fury — and the boxing community as a whole — changed their opinion on exactly what Ngannou might be capable of in a boxing ring.

The latest such figure is the former multiple time light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver who said in an interview with Boxing King Media that, if Joshua’s camp are taking him lightly, it could be bad night for the Briton.

“That Tyson Fury and Usyk fight is one for the ages but also important is the AJ and Ngannou fight. That fight got me a little nervous considering Ngannou’s natural power,” Tarver, now 55, said.

“AJ doesn’t really take punches well, we know that, so this fight makes me concerned, when you look at AJ has everything to lose and Ngannou has everything to win, it’s really tough going into a fight like that,” he added. “That’s really why Ngannou is in the ring anyway, why he was in with Tyson Fury and why he’s facing AJ. He’s a phenomenon man, something we haven’t seen in boxing forever.

“He could be 1 and 1 or 0 and 2 and be the richest 0 and 2 fighter in the sport. Like what the hell was I doing for the 23 years I was boxing? I got to take my hat off to him, and an athlete like that only comes across once in a lifetime.”

Another figure who, for obvious reasons (he is Fury’s promoter), didn’t give Ngannou a chance in October was Frank Warren — though he too appears to have changed his tune ahead of the bout with (Eddie Hearn’s) Anthony Joshua.

“Joshua’s come into this after his last fight against Wallin,” Warren said on Wednesday, according to France24.

“He’ll be a big favourite going in, but I know that if he gets caught on the whiskers (chin) then this fella (Ngannou) could cause a massive upset because he can whack.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how he takes the fight and to see if he fights on the outside or the inside. Ngannou’s game is getting on the inside. He’s a big man, he’s strong. People have seen him (Joshua) wobble a few times in fights, that happens with him. I’m not saying there’s a confidence issue, but there wasn’t that when he was such an emphatic fighter.”