Warren proclaims this era as 'a golden age of boxing'

Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou took to a London stage Monday in the latest edition of boxing events forming part of Turki Alalshikh’s Riyadh Season. 

The original gameplan for the 'Knockout Chaos' event had been for Joshua and Deontay Wilder to come to blows finally, after years of back-and-forth, but Joseph Parker ripped up the script when he handily defeated Wilder at the 'Day of Reckoning.'

Joshua meanwhile fulfilled his end with a fifth-round victory over Otto Wallin — one of the best performances of his career.

Alalshikh kicked off the press conference by thanking the Saudi royal family and everyone involved in promoting Joshua and Ngannou in Arabic, before giving his speech regarding the promotion of Joshua vs Ngannou.

"Do you understand why it is Joshua vs Ngannou," Alalshikh said through an interpreter. "You will see the result of this fight linked in with the result on February 17 [Fury vs Usyk]; this is our idea. 

"People have told me not to talk like this, Ngannou, I love you like a brother, but I want someone to stop you," Alalshikh told Nagnnou, prompting a good-humoured response from the former UFC heavyweight champion, who said he'd need to keep looking.

"You saw the last version of Joshua … I think we have got him back [to his best], and you will see something huge in 2024 with Eddie and Frank delivering a very big fight for the market.

"For 2024, I want to see card of Frank [Warren] vs Eddie [Hearn]," which saw both promoters shake hands, indicating that can be achieved before Alalshikh added that he will be speaking with Top Rank in an attempt to secure Artur Beterbeiv vs Dmitry Bivol for June to take place in Saudi Arabia. 

The brains behind Riyadh Season would finalise his segment by showing Joshua and Ngannou on a big screen directly behind them, showing an undisputed belt indicating the strategy of Alalshkhi for 2024, more major heavyweight fights in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. 

'A golden age of boxing'

Frank Warren would take to the microphone next, thanking the Saudi dignitaries for their support in allowing these major fights to happen along with Gimik promotions, 258MGNT, Gold Star Promotions and Matchroom Boxing.

"This is the fourth event of the Riyadh Season. If it wasn’t for 'His Excellency' and the team and the support of 'His Excellency' and Riyadh season, these fights would not be happening; that is a fact. It does not matter which way you dress it up, he has been instrumental in making these fights happen and the previous fights happen. He has been instrumental in getting me and Eddie around the table, and he [Alalshikh] and he has even got our guys [promoter vs promoter] going against each other, and we will make that happen," opened Warren.

"Fans have been begging us to make these kind of fight for years; sometimes, they have not been financially viable for us to make happen, but now it’s changed. The changes are happening so quickly and following one big fight after another. We are having fantastic undercards on these events, and it just keeps coming and coming."

He continued: "We are coming into the golden age of boxing, world boxing. If anyone doesn’t want to come on board, then they are a fool. This is great for the sport, the big fights are happening and it is down to his excellency and his team."

Warren commented on what he makes of the prospect of Joshua vs. Nagnnou, stating that his opinion on the former UFC heavyweight champion Ngannou has now changed. 

"There will be [fireworks in this fight]; prior to the last fight with Tyson and Francis, I genuinely thought it would be a tough fight for a short period of time, and then I thought Tyson would get a better footing in the fight and win the fight. It turned out that Francis brought something to the boxing ring that I certainly had not expected: that he can actually box. 

"We knew he was a tough competitor and that he could punch and be a handful on the inside. He was more than that, he was a switch hitter, got his timing right and put Tyson through one of the toughest fights he has had for a long, long time. 

"This guy [Ngannou] surprised everybody. I take my hat off to AJ for taking the fight with Nagnnou; he knows what he is getting himself involved with, which Tyson did not benefit from. How is Ngannou going to be on the night? Is he going to be a better fighter? I’m sure he has thought of things which he could do better and bring to the ring next time. 

"I think AJ is going to be in a tough fight and think there will be a knockout in this fight. They both got bombs in their hands and it will be interesting to see how the fight develops but i do think from the opening bell it is going to be explosive."

Eddie Hearn was next up and was a big sceptic of Ngannou’s adventure into boxing prior to the showdown with Fury, but his opinion of Ngannou as a boxer but believes that Joshua will ultimately become an undisputed heavyweight champion with Ngannou as an obstacle. 

"I first met Francis just under a year ago in Las Vegas, and he told me about his ambitions of being involved in boxing events. I met him, and he had an unbelievable story and a strong mind, but I did not take him seriously. I’ve never known anyone waltz into a sport and, in my opinion, beat Tyson Fury that night [October 28th].

"He may feel unlucky that he is not sitting here today as the lineal heavyweight world champion on his professional debut.

"So now, we take him very seriously. Outside of the Fury vs Usyk fight, this AJ vs Ngannou is currently the biggest fight in heavyweight boxing. After the December 23rd fight, his excellency told us we had to talk and asked what the biggest fight we could make, and it was this [following Wilder’s defeat to Joseph Parker].

"Two of the biggest fights are happening within three weeks of each other in Saudi Arabia, and it is an incredible opportunity. For AJ, there is big jeopardy in this fight; this man [Joshua] is going to be the undisputed heavyweight world champion one day. I truly believe I, but he is doing it the difficult way by going through obstacles and what some might say immovable objects [Looking at Ngannou]."

Ngannou responded to the previous comments from Hearn as the main topic of his press conference appearance, seemingly aiming to prove that he is going to be an improving fighter and re-emphasising that he is indeed just a beginner fighter. 

"I’ve been sitting here listening to people talking," said Ngannou. "Even Eddie praising me, which I appreciate, but at the same time, I’m not sure if he’s honest or if he just wants to get me [to] slip on his guy. 

"That’s not going to happen. I’m just a beginner out here that’s gonna train really hard and do everything and come as the underdog to win the fight. I don’t take my last fight as a reference. I think that I get this done. I know exactly where I am at. I’m just a beginner. I’m definitely getting better and better. That’s how I see things. I’m getting prepared for a hard fight."

Two-time unified heavyweight champion Joshua insisted that he is going to solely focus on the task at hand despite the promises of Alalshikh that the contest winner will fight for the undisputed championship of the world.

"Every fight leads to somewhere. So this fight is my everything, my mind, my spirit, my soul, my body," stated Joshua. 

"We’ll see where it leads me. Right now, I’m not thinking about any championship belts or anything. My main focus is Francis and getting through an intense training camp because, realistically, how I train is how I fight. If I get victory in my training camp I’ll get victory on the night. Right now, we’ll put the belts on hold."