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With just over a week to go until Francis Ngannou’s second outing in a professional boxing ring, British heavyweight Joe Joyce can see the former UFC heavyweight champion scoring an upset victory against Anthony Joshua.

The two powerhouse strikers, both former world champions of their respective codes of combat sports, clash in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia next Friday night in a bout that once again see Ngannou listed as a prohibitive underdog against the 2012 Olympic gold medallist Joshua.

Come fight time, though, the odds will likely be a little narrower than they were for Ngannou’s boxing debut last October against the unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who escaped from the Middle East with a split decision win and a bruised ego to match the swelling on his face after ten rounds in the ring with ‘The Predator.’

And boxing novice or not, Joe Joyce — the British Olympic silver winner who has previously sparred with Ngannou — says that, even with his lack of experience, Ngannou can pose some serious problems to Joshua when the trade heavy leather next week.

“Because he’s an MMA fighter and he’s not really been concentrating on boxing, he was a little bit more open and I could kind of see where the shots were coming from, move out the way and keep him on the jab,” Joyce told Sky Sports of a 2020 sparring session with Ngannou. “But them power shots are whistling past my abs and my chin in the process!”

Joyce added: “But we had a really good spar and I’ve got a lot of respect for Ngannou.”

Much has been made in the lead-up to the fight of Joshua’s supposed frailty towards power punchers, including from Ngannou who has vowed to “test” Joshua’s punch resilience, and Joyce is of the opinion that his countryman might struggle if the former UFC champion can land flush.

“If he lands one of those big shots like he hit Fury with then I don’t think Joshua’s going to get up from that,” Joyce said.  “He [Joshua] will probably be cagey in there. I think it’s going to be a good fight. As a match up they’ve both got power. I think it’s a great fight.

“He boxed really well against Fury. It’s an amazing story,” Joyce continued. “Reached the heights of UFC and then challenged arguably the best in Tyson Fury and gave him a run for his money. He’s a bit of a wild card.”