The Last Round: AJ vs Ngannou, upsets and controversy in Vegas

 | January 08 | 

4 mins read

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Welcome to The Last Round, where Betfred Insights gives you the final word on all the weekend’s boxing action. This week, Joey Mills looks at a surprising next move for ‘AJ’, a veteran campaigner reaching the top of the mountain and a stoppage controversy.

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Joshua vs Ngannou Is On

Anthony Joshua saw his best-laid plans shattered in Saudi Arabia when Joseph Parker beat his prospective next opponent, Deontay Wilder, by unanimous decision. The Brit was initially open to a Wilder fight still taking place, while promoter Eddie Hearn targeted a fight with Filip Hrgovic, potentially with the to-be-vacated IBF heavyweight title on the line. Betfred Insights also reported Zhilei Zhang’s interest in a Joshua scrap last week. 

But those fights are on the backburner now, with Joshua set to fight Francis Ngannou next. Once again the Olympic gold medalist will head to Saudi Arabia, a country that wants to be seen as the home of heavyweight boxing but doesn’t want you to question why.

The fight is questionable too, at least from a merit perspective. ‘AJ’ eschewing bouts with some of the best heavyweights on the planet to fight a rookie who is 0-1 in his pro career is a sad turn of events. But money talks and, after knocking down WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on his debut, Ngannou was always going to bring in the pounds and pence.

On paper this fight should be a canter for Joshua. Ngannou did incredibly well against Fury considering the gulf in experience. But it was clear ‘The Gypsy King’ had not prepared for the encounter with any diligence. Now that the surprise of Ngannou being halfway-competent has been revealed, it is hard to see ‘AJ’ taking any chances.

The marriage of Joshua and caution should set alarm bells ringing. Having just looked back to his old attack-minded self against Otto Wallin, a wary respect for Ngannou’s power could see ‘AJ’ retreat to a defensive mindset. Such caution has seen him post some mixed results in recent years. Here’s hoping the one-punch knockout capabilities of Ngannou don’t cause the Watford man to regress.

Barroso Shocks Davies

Ohara Davies’ fight with 40-year-old former world champion Ismael Barroso had collapsed weeks before over visa issues. Hackney’s ‘Two Tanks’ might wish those issues had never been resolved.

The Londoner was knocked out by the veteran in the very first round of their clash for the WBA interim light welterweight championship on Saturday in Las Vegas. It was considered a huge upset, with Davies riding a seven-fight winning streak coming in. Meanwhile, Barroso was bouncing back from a controversial stoppage defeat to Rolly Romero. The 40-year-old lost his WBA lightweight title to Anthony Crolla in 2016 and had been stopped twice since. Barroso also dropped a decision to Isa Chaniev in 2018.

But the tenured southpaw has come again, winning secondary world honours in spectacular fashion. At 31, Davies can at least take solace from Barroso’s late-career flourish. But with losses to Jack Catterall, Josh Taylor and now Barroso on his ledger, perhaps it is time for ‘Two Tanks’ to acknowledge that world level is a step beyond him.

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Ortiz Jr’s Controversial Stoppage

The record will show that Vergil Ortiz Jr stopped Frederick Lawson in one round over the weekend. The Las Vegas scrap always looked a tall order for Lawson, with Ortiz acknowledged as one of the most lethal prospects in the sport. But did Lawson get a fair shake?

It certainly didn’t look like it when referee Tony Weeks stopped the action while Ortiz missed Lawson visibly multiple times during a flurry. The shots that did meet their target were blocked by an able defence from Lawson, who employed the “turtle” style of block that made Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright famous. The underdog even tried to create openings to fire back and clearly looked like he was executing a gameplan. But Weeks had no time for counter-punching and called the fight off two minutes and 33 seconds in.

In the aftermath, Weeks has alleged that a brain aneurysm was found on Lawson’s initial medical testing and that, despite it not showing up on further tests, it played on Weeks’ mind. Golden Boy, who promoted the Vegas card, have denied this claim. Expect more facts to emerge from this curious stoppage in the coming weeks.

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