Anthony Joshua defeats Ngannou with second-round knockout

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*Anthony Joshua knocks down Francis Ngannou. Photo credit: Reuters/Andrew Couldridge Tpx Images of the Day.

Two-time world champion Anthony Joshua knocked out mixed martial arts star Francis Ngannou in just the second round of their heavyweight clash in the early hours of Saturday.

Joshua had his Cameroonian opponent on the canvas in the first round and twice more in the second in a brutal and brief exhibition of punching power.

Ngannou, 37, a former UFC heavyweight champion, was taking part in only his second professional boxing match having lost a split decision to Tyson Fury in October.

The fight

A dazed Ngannou rose to his feet in Riyadh but was stunned by an explosive and formidable right moments later as the referee halted the contest.

The 37-year-old appeared to be out before he even hit the canvas and required medical treatment.

“I’m going back to my cage and when they let me out, I’ll fight again,” Joshua said, as WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury watched on from ringside.

Fury made tough work of Ngannou in October when he was dropped by the debutant before edging a points win.

“When I saw the fight with Tyson Fury I thought ‘I want some of that’. [Ngannou] is a great champion and this doesn’t take anything away from his capabilities,” said Joshua.

“I told him not to leave boxing. He’s two fights in and he’s fought the best.”

Victory is two-time world champion Joshua’s fourth in 11 months, and keeps alive his ambition of recapturing a world title.

Eddie Hearn called for Joshua, who he has promoted throughout the heavyweight’s pro career, to face the winner of Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

The pair will fight to become the undisputed heavyweight world champion in May, with a rematch later in the year.

“In five years I won’t be fighting,” Joshua added. “Eddie Hearn and my team will shape my future.”

With the card running more than an hour later than planned, it was 03:20 local time when master of ceremonies Michael Buffer introduced Ngannou to the ring.

Dressed in a pink and white robe with gold tassels, Ngannou made the solitary walk down the aisle to the tune of ‘God’s Plan’ by Drake.

The knockout

A frowning Joshua looked full of purpose as he strutted to the ring with confidence. He kneeled down and recited a prayer in his corner.

Joshua drew the loudest reaction, a mixture of boos and jeers. He seemed completely undeterred, his eyes set firmly on Ngannou.

And it was a near-perfect start for the Watford-born fighter. Ngannou had just narrowly missed with a lead left hand as Joshua remained calm and composed.

AJ extended his backhand to land a flush right down the pipe. By flooring Ngannou, he had done within three minutes what Fury failed to do in 10 rounds four months ago.

A stunned Ngannou got up on the count of eight and saw out the round.

Joshua has become a smarter fighter in recent years, honing his technical ability. He doubled his jab, bided his time and waited for an opening.

Another right hand had Ngannou clamouring on the floor. He beat the count in the nick of time but the writing was on the wall.

The finishing punch was one which will undoubtedly take centre stage in future Joshua knockout highlights reel.

BBC