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Anthony Joshua vs. Francis Ngannou predictions, best bets, odds: Top picks to consider in heavyweight showdown

In October, Francis Ngannou proved his attempt to move from the world of mixed martial arts to boxing at the highest level was anything but a gimmick. That night, Ngannou dropped Tyson Fury and lost a narrow split decision, shocking the world even without having his hand raised at the end of the bout. Ngannou looks to score his first professional boxing victory on Friday when he takes on two-time former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

After losing back-to-back fights to Oleksandr Usyk — who will face Fury in May to crown an undisputed heavyweight champion — Joshua has made easy work of Jermaine Franklin, Robert Helenius and Otto Wallin, bringing some strong momentum into the bout with Ngannou.

Joshua vs. Ngannou is a compelling fight, with the winner being positioned to possibly face the winner of Fury vs. Usyk, who will likely rematch after their coming clash. That means Ngannou could be fighting for a world championship as soon as his third professional bout.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of Joshua vs. Ngannou from Saudi Arabia on Friday night below.

There’s another intriguing heavyweight fight on Friday night with title implications. WBO interim champ Zhilei Zhang is set to take on Jospeh Parker. Zhang earned the interim title with an April 2023 TKO win over Joe Joyce. He retained that status in a rematch five months later with a second TKO of Joyce. Now, he takes on Parker, who is coming off his own impressive win over former WBC champ Deontay Wilder in December. The winner is likely to become a mandatory challenger for the winner of Usyk-Fury at some point later this year.

The most exciting title fight on Friday may just be the WBC featherweight title showdown between champion Rey Vargas and challenger Nick Ball. Ball won a title eliminator against Isaac Dogboe in November to land a fight against Vargas. Vargas won his title in July 2022 and has yet to defend the belt, though he did move up a division in February 2023, losing a bout to O’Shaquie Foster for the WBC junior lightweight title. Vargas has also held world championship gold at junior featherweight.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the odds heading into Friday, from the moneyline to some intriguing prop bets for the main event, as well as a look at two of the featured bouts on the undercard.

Moneyline outlook: Joshua -350 vs. Ngannou +275

There are a lot of things to consider heading into Friday’s main event. Joshua is the better boxer, this is beyond any doubt. Ngannou showed surprising boxing skills against Fury, but he will never close the gap in actual boxing technique and knowledge on someone who has been boxing at an incredibly high level since early in his life, winning an Olympic gold medal and twice holding three world championship belts. Power is a great equalizer, however, and Ngannou has power in bunches.

What Ngannou had against Fury that he does not have against Joshua is the element of surprise. It’s reasonable to think that Fury took the fight lightly and when Ngannou didn’t come out as a pure face-first attacker, Fury wasn’t ready and able to flip the switch to change his approach.

Unlike Fury, Joshua has tape on Ngannou and knows what general base skills the former UFC champ brings to the ring. In theory, more time in a dedicated camp has expanded Ngannou’s skillset somewhat, but the fight likely comes down to whether Joshua can outbox Ngannou without falling into a trap that brings Ngannou’s power into play. We’ve seen Joshua get hurt by several fighters and have seen him stopped by Andy Ruiz, who does not have the power of Ngannou. But we’ve also seen Joshua respond to situations like that against Ruiz by leaning on his jab and footwork and cruising to a win.

Pick: Anthony Joshua -350 — There’s a chance Ngannou lands a bomb and Joshua can’t recover but the far safer play is to expect the better boxer to box his way to victory.

Props to watch

How many official knockdowns will be recorded? The line is currently set at 1.5, with over at +100 and under at -140. Both men have heavy hands and knockdowns are certainly at play. Ngannou did drop Fury once, shocking the world in the process. But Fury is not immune to being knocked down by any stretch. My guess is that any stoppage in the fight is from a standing TKO rather than a flat knockout. If the fight develops into a slugfest, it’s easy to see at least two knockdowns happening over 10 rounds. Because I believe that Joshua approaches the fight with a conservative, jab-first approach, I lean toward the under. If you think Ngannou is going to be able to cut the ring off and force heavy exchanges, the over is likely appealing. Pick: Under 1.5 knockdowns (-140)

Will the fight go 10 rounds? It’s a little surprising to see this line sitting with “no” at -300. The oddsmakers are heavily favoring a stoppage (Joshua via stoppage is currently listed at -150) but for all the reasons written above, I do believe the fight will end up going to the scorecards. For that reason, there’s a lot of value in taking “yes” here. Pick: “Yes” (+225)

Method of victory: There’s no reason to spend much more time on saying the same things over and over. Joshua by decision is loaded with value here. Pick: Anthony Joshua via decision (+333)

Method of victory Odds

Anthony Joshua via KO, TKO or DQ

-150

Anthony Joshua via decision

+333

Draw

+2200

Francis Ngannou via KO, TKO or DQ

+333

Francis Ngannou via decision

+1800

A look at the undercard

Zhilei Zhang (-225) vs. Joseph Parker (+188) — Parker is coming off a huge win over a very flat Deontay Wilder. Zhang is coming off back-to-back wins for the WBO interim heavyweight title against Joe Joyce, both by TKO. Prior to the Joyce wins, Zhang lost a decision to Filip Hrgovic that was fairly questionable. Zhang is a big, powerful heavyweight who has transformed from fairly awkward into something of a boogeyman in the division. Parker is a solid fighter who has lost most of his biggest fights and really benefited from Wilder showing up seemingly disinterested in actually fighting. Zhang is prone to flat moments against decent fighters, but he should be able to edge things out against Parker. Pick: Zhilei Zhang (-225)

Rey Vargas (+150) vs. Nick Ball (-175) — Vargas is putting his WBC featherweight title on the line against rising contender Ball in what should be the most entertaining fight on the card. Ball won a title eliminator against Isaac Dogboe in November to land a fight against Vargas. Vargas won his title in July 2022 and has yet to defend the belt, though he did move up a division in February 2023, losing a bout to O’Shaquie Foster for the WBC junior lightweight title. Vargas has also held world championship gold at junior featherweight. Vargas’ relative lack of activity is concerning against a tough, hard-charging contender, which makes for another fight where I’m siding with the favorite. Pick: Nick Ball (-175)

Who wins Francis Ngannou vs. Anthony Joshua, and which props paying around +400 should you be all over? Visit SportsLine now to see Brandon Wise’s best bets for Friday, all from the CBS combat sports specialist who just called Jake Paul’s first-round win, and find out.

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