Eddie Hearn: Francis Ngannou has freak power but Anthony Joshua is heading for Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyky

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — If Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn is nervous about his client Anthony Joshua’s March 8 clash with former UFC heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou, then he’s doing a good job of hiding it.

The promoter was in great spirits at a media lunch on Wednesday, holding court for almost two hours and fielding a variety of questions throughout. Hearn is fully aware of Ngannou’s state-of-the-art firepower, but it’s what we don’t know that plays on his mind.

“I’ve never been as scared from that element going into a fight,” Hearn told The Sporting News. “Ngannou is still a little bit of an unknown: puncher, strength; freak strength. You just don’t know [what else is there].

“I spoke to Tyson [Fury] about him last night, and he said he landed a few monster punches, and he didn’t move. But I keep going back to the fact that I just don’t believe that you can compete with those guys when you just haven’t been doing it.”

WATCH: Anthony Joshua vs. Francis Ngannou, exclusively live on DAZN

The obvious question to ask next was, how did a pro boxing debutant in Ngannou manage to perform so well against the consensus No. 1 Fury when the pair clashed last October?

A professional for over 15 years, Fury looked a pale imitation of the great fighter who outscored Wladimir Klitschko and destroyed Deontay Wilder twice. While the WBC champion took the blame for his showing, it’s difficult to believe that he endured a proper 12-week camp as has been reported.

Tyson Fury - Francis Ngannou

(Mikey Williams/Top Rank/GETTY)

“Was Fury at his best?” asked Hearn before offering his opinion on the bout. “No, I think it was a poor Tyson Fury performance. Last night, he said that he didn’t sleep [before the fight], he didn’t do this, he didn’t do that.

“But it doesn’t really matter because even Tyson Fury at his worst is still a top-15 heavyweight. You therefore have to say that Ngannou was good enough to compete with, drop, maybe even beat a top-15 heavyweight. Even if you want to make all the excuses in the world, it’s still Tyson Fury. It’s not just some opponent you’ve flown in.”

MORE: Do you think Tyson Fury is a liar? Ngannou trainer confident of shocking AJ

British fans still crave a mega match between Fury and Joshua. That fantasy fight has been made, cancelled, killed off and resuscitated for years. However, what if Usyk tears up the script on May 18 and hands Fury his first professional defeat?

“[Joshua’s trainer] Ben Davison wants [a third fight between Joshua and Usyk] more than anything,” Hearn said enthusiastically. “He said to me, ‘I promise you; AJ will beat Usyk. Just give me that fight.’

“It’s just a much more difficult fight to… not sell because it’s still the undisputed championship, but he’s lost to him twice. The first one was quite wide, but the second one was close and competitive. It was probably 115-113 Usyk. It would be a hell of a story to come back and beat him.”

It remains highly unlikely that the Fury-Usyk winner will be undisputed champion for long. Hearn doubled down on the fact that Croatian contender Filip Hrgovic will enforce his IBF mandatory status and – at least for now – Joshua is the man he needs to go through.

Can Ngannou alter the course of heavyweight history on Friday?

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