Former cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson says it’s a bad move for Anthony Joshua to be fighting novice Francis Ngannou on March 8th, given what’s at stake with the big payday he can get fighting the Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk winner.

Nelson feels that if the two-time heavyweight champion Joshua (27-3, 24 KOs) were to lose Ngannou (0-1) in their match in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he couldn’t justify it to himself the way he could if he fought a top 10 contender. How does Joshua handle getting beaten by a 37-year-old novice with one fight under his belt in boxing, coming off a loss?

A defeat at the hands of Ngannou could mentally ruin Joshua, destroying what’s left of his shattered confidence and erasing all the hard work his promoter, Eddie Hearn, has done to rebuild him by matching him against three consecutive ham & eggers after his second loss to Usyk.

Risk vs. Reward

“If I was Eddie, I wouldn’t take this fight. The risk-reward doesn’t weigh up,” said Johnny Nelson to Boxing Kind Media about Anthony Joshua fighting the non-boxer Francis Ngannou on March 8th instead of a top contender.

“These men are getting paid ridiculous dough, so the reward is great financially. So, if it’s about the dough, good move,” said Nelson on why Joshua would be fighting the 0-1 novice, Ngannou. “If it’s not about the dough and it’s about the bigger picture after this, then you look at the risk-reward, and what I’m saying is right.”

The Saudis have offered Joshua a ton of loot for this fight against Ngannou, so he’s chosen to take the cold, hard cash rather than taking the high ground and refusing it based on it lowering his standards.

The Saudis are having Joshua fight a semi-pro, where if he loses, it will be impossible for him to pick up the pieces of what’s left of his career. It’s bad enough that Joshua was beaten by the flabby 268-lb career gatekeeper Andy Ruiz, but this would be far, far worse if he gets whipped by Ngannou.

Damage to Credibility

“If the worst thing happened and AJ lost to Ngannou, then the big reward after this fight [against the Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk winner] doesn’t happen straight away, and it could have a detrimental effect on AJ.

A loss to Ngannou, a fighter with limited boxing experience, would spoil Joshua’s credibility in the sport, making him look really bad. What would be even worse is if the Saudis still have Joshua fight the Fury-Usyk winner.

You can’t put it past the Saudis doing that, which would make a complete mockery of the heavyweight world championship. It would make it clear that this is just about business and nothing about the sport. Ngannou obviously shouldn’t be fighting Joshua at all, period. Allowing a novice with a 0-1 record to fight in what is a title eliminator is just wrong.

“If I was AJ and I went out there and I lost to someone like Ngannou, in my mind, shouldn’t have a chance, how am I going to justify that? No excuse is going to put you at peace with it. If you want glory, risks have to be taken,” said Nelson.

There’s no way that Joshua could justify losing to Ngannou, and it could mentally destroy him if he loses this fight. Joshua would likely still keep fighting on with his career, if only for the sake of money, but he might be a ruined person afterward and would be used as a punching bag and meal ticket for other fighters.

“Joshua is in touching distance of fighting Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk after this fight, and that’s a big payday. Bad days happen in boxing, so why give a man [Ngannou] a chance who shouldn’t have one? That’s all I’m saying,” said Nelson about his view that Joshua shouldn’t be fighting Ngannou because he doesn’t rate a fight due to his lack of experience.

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