Who wins Joshua vs Ngannou on Friday? | Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

Who wins Joshua vs Ngannou on Friday? Our picks for that fight and three more on the card!

Anthony Joshua will take on Francis Ngannou on Friday, March 8, in another of boxing’s crossover-ish mega-events.

Will the experience of Joshua (27-3, 24 KO) be too much for Ngannou, who lost his boxing debut last year but outperformed expectations against Tyson Fury? Or can Ngannou pull the upset officially this time in the boxing ring against another superstar and top pro?

We’ve got our picks in for AJ vs The Predator, plus three fights on the really solid undercard!

Who wins Joshua vs Ngannou?

Scott Christ (3-1)

One inclination is to say that AJ wants to look better than Fury did, so he might go for something big, but Fury dropped that bar so low with his terrible performance against Ngannou that it won’t take a stoppage to credibly say, “Hey, I did way better than Tyson Fury did against this very tough and dangerous man.”

Ngannou’s only chance is a knockout. It could happen. But I don’t think AJ will take the risks to get himself caught. He’ll be cautious and even tentative-seeming early, and he’ll find the openings, jab away, box and work a little, and win the rounds. It’ll be a clear decision; if Francis offers himself up to get stopped, Joshua might stop him, but AJ’s not going to hunt it. Joshua UD-10

Wil Esco (3-1)

If Joshua is taking this fight seriously (more seriously than Tyson Fury, anyway), then I really don’t see how Ngannou should really be able to compete with him. Joshua is far, far more experienced in the boxing ring and even if past his best form, he still should have enough to beat Ngannou over 10 rounds. I don’t suspect Joshua will put himself in harm’s way trying to force a knockout here, as that’ll give Ngannou his best chance to land something dramatic, so I’m just going to take Joshua to win a clear decision on points. Joshua UD-10

John Hansen (4-0)

Generally speaking, being a professional boxer is a tremendous advantage in winning a professional boxing match. There’s only one of those in this fight, and I’ll take him to win, thanks very much. Even the pro boxer who showed up looking like a blobfish barely evolved to walk on land, and fought with all the passion of a sack of jelly beans spilling over sideways, managed to eke out a split decision against Ngannou.

Will Joshua get the finish, though? Maybe! If Ngannou puts himself at risk, and Joshua sees the opening, maybe he’ll push for it. But Joshua’s foremost strategy since the first Ruiz fight has been to avoid getting his chin tested, and he ought to be able to outbox Ngannou on his own terms without too much danger. Joshua UD-10

Patrick Stumberg (3-1)

Tyson Fury has a style that is largely divorced from conventional boxing, relying on a mix of unpredictable movement and smothering clinch work. Whether due to wear-and-tear, improper preparation, or just a desire to pace himself, he relied more on the latter than the former against Ngannou. This allowed “The Predator,” a physical specimen who’s spent his entire combat sports career learning to deal with the clinch, plenty of opportunities to out-muscle Fury and land shots in the pocket.

It turned out to be a surprisingly favorable matchup for Ngannou and he still couldn’t pull off the upset. Against Joshua, a more conventional fighter who will demand a lot more of Ngannou’s technique, he’s going to have a much worse time.

Between him and Ngannou, Joshua has the better jab, the better motor, the better footwork, and a willingness to play keep-away against dangerous punchers. I’m not saying Ngannou will be as easy to outmaneuver as a bloated Andy Ruiz Jr, but he’s never been fleet-of-foot and couldn’t maintain a moderate pace through 10 rounds against Fury. If Ngannou doesn’t get Joshua out of there inside of four, he’s toast.

Not to say Ngannou can’t do that, of course, but I don’t buy Joshua’s supposed fragility. He got up from a murderous straight courtesy of Wladimir Klitschko and didn’t immediately go down from Ruiz’s initial killshot. It takes a lot to get rid of Joshua, and considering Ngannou only managed one light knockdown of the absurdly knockdown-prone Fury, I don’t see him clipping AJ.

What Ngannou accomplished against Fury was spectacular, but he’s going to be 0-2 in the Sweet Science come Friday. Joshua UD-10

Who wins Zhang vs Parker?

Knockout Chaos - Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou: Press Conference
Photo by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing via Getty Images

Scott Christ (3-1)

Since the loss to Joe Joyce, we’ve seen Parker and trainer Andy Lee make some adjustments and, crucially, be plenty happy to play it safe/smart and just be more effective than the other guy often enough.

Think this is going to be a huge “styles make fights” sort of deal. Parker lost to Joyce, Zhang beat Joyce twice, and I think Parker is going to nick it against Zhang because he’ll just win enough rounds and not take risks mixing it up with Zhang. Parker moves a lot better than Joyce, and Zhang doesn’t have quite the inevitable downhill momentum that version of Joyce used to have.

Zhang’s really good, if Parker stays still enough and the “Big Bang” lands his shots, he’ll win this fight. But I think Lee will have the right plan to win seven rounds of this fight, and Parker is good enough to get the job done. Parker SD-12

Wil Esco (3-1)

I have no shame in saying I truly have no strong inclinations as to who will actually win this matchup. Parker’s performances are generally up and down and a bit unpredictable in that respect, and while Zhang has looked as good as he ever has of late, he’s also a 40-year-old fighter who could look his age in just about any outing. I suspect this may turn out to be a cagey affair, particularly in the first half of the fight, and I’m just going to go on a whim that says Zhang takes a decision after the final bell. Zhang UD-12

John Hansen (4-0)

“…but can he do it against a guy who will actually throw punches back at him?”

I’m not so sure he can. Zhang is aging without getting old, Parker has lost to lesser opposition than Zhang before, and I don’t know if the version of Wilder that Parker just beat is really a meaningful victory. I just believe in Zhang more than I do Parker here. Zhang TKO-10

Patrick Stumberg (3-1)

As a fan, I’m with Zhang. It’s been wild to see him come into his own at an age where most fighters, or at least most non-heavyweights, have long since decayed. As an analyst, I don’t like his chances in this matchup.

The thing with Filip Hrgovic and Joe Joyce is that neither had the means to test Zhang’s footwork. Hrgovic is robotic and Joyce’s movements can only be observed through hours-long timelapse footage. Zhang’s hands may be deceptively fast for his size, but his feet absolutely aren’t, and Parker’s got the mobility to take advantage of that. Also worth noting is Parker’s motor; Zhang’s well-conditioned for a 280-pound 40-year-old, but he can’t maintain a high pace for any particular length of time. By contrast, cardio has never been among Parker’s faults.

If Zhang’s winning this fight, it’s by stopping Parker inside of six, which isn’t unfeasible. Parker has very limited experience against southpaws and Zhang’s a damn sight better at landing his power shots than Wilder ever was. If Parker comes out as focused and composed as he did against Wilder, though, I don’t see him getting caught cold. He outworks “Big Bang” down the stretch for his second consecutive upset. Parker UD-12

Quick Picks!

Rey Vargas vs Nick Ball

  • Scott: Vargas UD-12
  • Wil: Ball UD-12
  • John: Vargas MD-12
  • Patrick: Vargas UD-12

Israil Madrimov vs Magomed Kurbanov

  • Scott: Madrimov TKO-10
  • Wil: Madrimov UD-12
  • John: Madrimov TKO-9
  • Patrick: Madrimov UD-12

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