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Anthony Joshua Protects The Integrity Of Boxing After Devastating Ngannou KO In 2nd Round, Joseph Parker Stuns Again With Victory Over Lackluster Zhang

Anthony Joshua Protects The Integrity Of Boxing After Devastating Ngannou KO In 2nd Round featured image
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Anthony Joshua celebrates victory after the Heavyweight fight between Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou on the Knockout Chaos boxing card at the Kingdom Arena on March 08, 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Anthony Joshua embodied the true essence of boxing as he presided over an easy knockout over Francis Ngannou, dispelling any notions of top MMA competitors being able to compete on an even level with top professional boxers. Joseph Parker also did justice to the sport with a victory over Zhilei Zhang who put up the most disappointing performance of his career while on one of the biggest stages in the world. Joshua’s and Ngannou’s bout headlined a fight card that had been dubbed as “Knockout Chaos“, which certainly proved to be the case as Joshua shouldered the reputation of the sport on his shoulders and delivered in stupendous fashion.

Given Anthony Joshua’s (27-3, 24 KO’s) pedigree in boxing which saw him a become a two-time unified heavyweight champion, it fell on the British heavyweight to restore the boxing order following Tyson Fury’s (34-0-1, 24 KO’s) disappointing close-knit clash against Francis Ngannou (0-2, 0 KO’s) last October.

The October bout between Fury and Ngannou had briefly upturned boxing, with a boxing novice in Ngannou seemingly proving himself as the “Baddest Man on the Planet“―a reputation he earned competing in MMA―after knocking Fury down and making the fight close enough to lose by a controversial split-decision in his boxing debut.

Given the performance Francis Ngannou had put in against Fury―who was the incumbent WBC heavyweight champion at the time, the perspective on the entire boxing vs. MMA debate had been upturned with former UFC heavyweight Ngannou regarded as a genuine heavyweight contender according to BoxRec and the WBC.

However, Friday proved that the gap between top MMA fighters when competing against top boxers was simply too big as Anthony Joshua stormed to an easy knockout victory over Francis Ngannou in the second round of their non-title bout that had been scheduled for ten rounds.

While the first round saw little action in the opening minute, with both fighters appearing to test their range and gauge each other’s ability, it was Anthony Joshua who went on to score a knockdown in the closing minute with a powerful right hand that he set up perfectly with a jab feint.

The blow saw Ngannou meet the full brunt of a former heavyweight champion’s power as he fell onto his back―though he did get back up eventually, and it showed a sign of things to come as the minute passed with only a few cases of exciting action―with Anthony Joshua further causing a brief scare when one or two hooks from Ngannou seemed to rock him during a brief exchange.

The second round would prove the difference between an elite competitor and novice in boxing as Anthony Joshua ventured into being more technical and focused than he had been the previous rounds, throwing Ngannou off with feints while also making more use of his jab as he settled into the proper range. The closing minute of the round again saw Joshua make use of his superior ring IQ, gauging the distance appropriately before dropping Ngannou with a stunning right hook that the former UFC champion did not manage to see coming.

Anthony Joshua Protects The Integrity Of Boxing After Devastating Ngannou KO In 2nd Round image 1
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – MARCH 8: Anthony Joshua knocks down Francis N’Gannou for the 1st time during their Heavyweight Contest at Kingdom Arena on March 8, 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing via Getty Images)

Clearly hurt, Ngannou looked shell-shocked as he managed to beat the ten-count following his knockdown after he got up, but with Joshua’s punch clearly having caused some damage, the Cameroonian was unable to respond when seconds after the match resumed Joshua planted one of the hardest heavyweight punches in boxing history on Ngannou’s chin.

Despite his accomplishments in MMA and his reputation as “The Predator“, it was Ngannou who would become the prey as Joshua’s right hand took advantage of Ngannou’s complete lack of defense, resulting in the Cameroonian being knocked out cold to the point he was on the ground for minutes and even required an oxygen tank to recuperate.

With a devastating win over a fighter once known in combat sports as the most dangerous man on the planet, Anthony Joshua has managed to firmly restore the reputation of boxing that had taken an insufferable blow following Fury’s split-decision win against Ngannou last year, establishing the acute difference between a weathered and highly-capable professional boxer and a boxing novice.

Anthony Joshua further seemed to have catapulted himself to the point of being the most-recognizable heavyweight boxer on the planet again, managing to not only saving boxing from being regarded as a circus sport, but doing his own career justice as he defeated the second opponent in a row that Tyson Fury faced and struggled with, driving up further interest and stakes for a highly-anticipated bout between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury.

In the co-main event, New Zealander heavyweight Joseph Parker (35-3, 23 KO’s) and Chinese WBO interim champion Zhilei Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KO’s) put up an anti-climatic performance compared to the main event, despite Parker suffering two knockdowns during the match which only slightly cranked up the entertainment factor of their heavyweight bout. There was a notable lack of action throughout the twelve-round scheduled bout which would see Zhang defend his WBO interim title.

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RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – MARCH 08: Joseph Parker punches Zhilei Zhang during the WBO Interim World Heavyweight title fight between Zhilei Zhang and Joseph Parker on the Knockout Chaos boxing card at the Kingdom Arena on March 08, 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

However, despite the more prosaic nature of their bout, Parker again exemplified his improvement following a devastating loss to Joe Joyce (15-2, 14 KO’s)―who Zhang defeated twice last year―in 2022 to indicate his readiness to compete for a world title again. The bout was particularly bland due to Zhang’s tendency not to throw many punches, with the most of his efforts limited to a knockdown in the third and the eight round.

It was one of Zhang’s most disappointing performances ever witnessed as the Chinese heavyweight failed to produce the same intensity and effort as he had done with Joyce in the two matches they fought. While the two did exchange punches and Zhang was clearly the more powerful puncher as evident by the knockdowns, it was Parker who remained the most active and retained the most control over the ring as he popped off with multiple combinations, continuously staying just about busy and clever enough to pepper Zhang with varied shots.

While every punch by Zhang seemed to buzz Parker, Parker was the better boxer throughout the entirety of the match and Zhang seemed to heavily suffer from a lack of conditioning as his punch rate seemingly decreased with every round. Despite Parker suffering two knockdowns, the New Zealander’s smart and efficient gameplan proved to be the decider as he was ruled the winner by majority decision after the twelve rounds had subsided, with scorecards of 113-113, 114-112, and 115-111 demonstrating Parker’s continuing improvement as a heavyweight contender.

The two are now set to rematch as Parker revealed in his post-match interview with there having been a rematch clause included for both fighters. Though the exact specifics on this rematch clause are still unknown, there is presumably a clause for the loser―in this case Zhang―that can be triggered.

The rest of the fight card proved more exciting than the co-main event though there were several matches that were not without controversy. In particular, the mandatory featherweight title bout between defending WBC champion Rey Vargas (36-1-1, 22 KO’s) and British challenger Nick Ball (19-0-1, 11 KO’s) saw Ball seemingly scrape the rounds through grit, determination and a high-level of skill yet the opportunity to become a world champion fell out of his grasp as the judges scored the fight a majority decision-draw after the twelve rounds had expired.

Anthony Joshua Protects The Integrity Of Boxing After Devastating Ngannou KO In 2nd Round image 3
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – MARCH 08: Nick Ball and Rey Vargas exchange punches during the WBC World Featherweight title fight between Rey Vargas and Nick Ball on the Knockout Chaos boxing card at the Kingdom Arena on March 08, 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

One judge’s scorecard deemed the match a draw of 113-113, while the other two scorecards each tipped the match in favor for either fighter with Nick Ball receiving a wide scorecard of 116-110 in his favor while Vargas was thought the winner through one scorecard of 114-112.

The controversy stems from the notion that Ball had won due to several factors, but mostly the two knockdowns he had on Vargas in the eight and eleventh round. While Vargas had boxed very well in the early half of the fight, Ball had been the more decisive and effective fighter in the latter half of the bout and appeared to have taken all the championship rounds [rounds ten to twelve] to supposedly do enough to win, However, at least one judge had thought Vargas’ deteriorating ability to make an impact later on counted as a victory, ruining what should have been a close but deserving victory for Nick Ball.

The “Knockout Chaos” event also saw a WBA super welterweight/junior middleweight title fight occur as Uzbeki contender Israil Madrimov (10-0-1, 7 KO’s) and Russian contender Magomed Kurbanov (25-1, 13 KO’s) fought over the vacant WBA 154 lbs title that had recently been made available after former champion Jermell Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KO’s) was stripped of the belt.

The match bore witness to the surprising rise of Madrimov as the new WBA champion as he went on to dominate following the first round, eventually stopping Kurbanov in just the fifth round of their twelve-round bout to firmly announce himself to the 154 lbs division as the newest, and perhaps the most dangerous, champion in that weight class.

Anthony Joshua Protects The Integrity Of Boxing After Devastating Ngannou KO In 2nd Round image 4
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – MARCH 8: Israil Madrimov fights Magomed Kurbanov for the WBA World Super Welterweight Title at Kingdom Arena on March 8, 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing via Getty Images)

Even more impressively, the two fight had been expected to be evenly-sided before the two fighters entered the ring with Madrimov’s lack of pro experience compared to Kurbanov expected to be shown. However, Madrimov instead went on to stun everyone as he put on a dominant performance that resulted in a technical knockout (TKO) victory.

Another notable fight that occurred on the card was a heavyweight bout between Australian Justis Huni (9-0, 4 KO’s) and South African Kevin Lerena (30-3, 14 KO’s) with Huni proving his credentials as a potential contender after enduring Lerena’s power to make it to the twelfth round and emerge as the victor by unanimous decision, winning the WBO Global heavyweight title in the process.

Further results include:

  • British lightweight Mark Chamberlain (15-0, 11 KO’s) continuing on with his stoppage/knockout streak through a TKO victory over fellow Brit Gavin Gwynne (17-3-1, 5 KO’s).
  • British contender Louis Greene (17-4, 11 KO’s) defeating countryman Jack McGann (9-1-1, 6 KO’s) by TKO in a bout held at super welterweight.
  • Ukrainian heavyweight Andrii Novytskyi (10-0, 9 KO’s) winning by KO after defeating American heavyweight Juan Torres (11-6-1, 4 KO’s).
  • Saudi Arabian professional Ziyad Almaayouf (5-0, 1 KO’s) winning a hard-won contest over Mexican fighter Christian Lopez Flores (14-36-2, 12 KO’s) at super lightweight.
  • Roman Fury (4-0, 1 KO’s), younger brother of Tyson Fury, handing Czech fighter Martin Svarc (2-1, 1 KO’s) his first-ever career loss in a heavyweight contest.