Francis Ngannou has made a career — and indeed a life — of upsetting the odds.
The former UFC heavyweight champion and professional boxing neophyte’s very presence in the ring with the former two-time world champion Joshua is unlikely, not least because of his arduous journey to leave his native Cameroon in pursuit of his combat sports dreams, first in France, then the United States — and in March, Saudi Arabia.
And after being counted out by most ahead of his boxing debut last year against Tyson Fury (which he ultimately lost by narrow split decision), Ngannou is primed to attempt to upset the odds once again in a month’s time.
“We don’t know the strength of Anthony Joshua, but even though I don’t believe he has that strength, but we’re going to find out in two months. We’re going to find out, and I think the reverse is going to happen. I’m going to be the one taking his soul.”
The October showdown with Tyson Fury, during which he dropped the giant ‘Gypsy King’ with a thunderous third-round left hook, didn’t go Ngannou’s way on the scorecards, despite large sections of both the boxing and MMA communities scoring the fight for the the man making his debut in the sport.
But Ngannou says that he is not focused on the result, but more what he achieved in the ring on that heady night in Riyadh.
“I mean, I won,” he said. “Look at me now. Look at my life. Look at where I was when you think I lost. You think because some foolish judges make some decision, that changes anything in my life? My family that I was telling you about, they were sitting in the first row watching that fight.
“The dream that I was carrying since I was a kid, I was that night living that dream. On top of the world, I was there. And for all the people that [have] been doubting me, I was there proving them wrong. For everybody that ever looked down at me, I was there proving them wrong. They were home watching me on their TV.
“I have won everything. You think because some judges make a decision? It’s not a court. The only decision that a judge can make to change my life is a court, if they sign me to go to jail. But I’m out here. In fact, because of that fight, from that fight I won this fight. I won everything. I won everything that night in that fight.
“I think I won everything from boxing, and the least that they could get back was to get that, ‘Oh, you son of a b*tch, you’re not taking everything from us.’ What would have happened if they had given me a decision? It makes boxing look really bad. They need to save face at some point. I understand it.”