Francis Ngannou might not be part of Eddie Hearn’s plans for former world champion Anthony Joshua, but the Matchroom boxing supremo admitted he’d love to work with the former UFC heavyweight champion to get his story out to a global audience.
Ngannou’s remarkable life saw him escape Cameroon travel through Africa, then Spain, before reaching France where, while homeless, he found a boxing gym before discovering the MMA Factory, where his first coach Fernand Lopez would start him on his path in mixed martial arts that eventually led all the way to the UFC heavyweight title.
It was a story that Ngannou was able to recount directly to Hearn during a meeting earlier this year, and appearing on The MMA Hour, the English boxing promoter admitted he was blown away by what he heard.
“I had lunch with Francis Ngannou. I was completely gobsmacked by the story of this man,” he said.
“I mean, we sat for two hours, and I was just listening to just the most remarkable… I mean, how this isn’t a film, I’ve no idea. Unbelievable.
“I’m sitting there (and) I’d like to feel like I’m far from naive, but I’m sort of asking him, how did you get from there to there? And (he was) like, ‘Oh, we just we just did this. We lived in a forest for two weeks.’
“I’m thinking, please let me go to Hollywood now with you, and sell this film! People need to be educated about what that man has been through, and the story to get to where he’s got to. I found him fascinating. Lovely guy, and I’d love to do something.”
That “something” probably won’t involve Ngannou facing Hearn’s biggest client. Anthony Joshua is looking to work his way back to the top of the heavyweight tree following back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk, and his comeback fight – a decision victory over Jermaine Franklin – was described by Hearn himself as “solid, not spectacular,” with some pundits suggesting the Joshua’s competitive fire had dimmed compared to some of his previous bouts.
Hearn is now looking to build Joshua back up, and said that a fight with Ngannou, however intriguing, wouldn’t make sense for “AJ’s” career as things stand.
“Firstly, you cannot in a million years with Francis Ngannou’s ability in boxing and pedigree in boxing, go in and compete, technically (and) skill-wise, not just with AJ, but with any top 20 heavyweight in the world,” Hearn stated.
“But, in that division, the difference is what you can do is knock someone out, right?
“So it doesn’t matter whether Francis fights Anthony Joshua Tyson Fury … and Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte, Derek Chisora, Jermaine Franklin. He has no chance against those guys, other than to be aggressive, trade up, and catch someone clean and take them out.
“It’s not just Francis Ngannou. People would give fighters a much better chance against AJ having watched that performance (against Franklin). In your world, that translates to Francis Ngannou, and why not? I don’t feel like it’s a fight that’s going to continue the development of Anthony Joshua under his new trainer.”