Anthony Joshua has dismissed suggestions that his fight against Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on Friday should not be taken seriously and says his opponent fully deserves his shot.

Joshua takes on the MMA star in his first ring appearance since his five-round triumph over Otto Wallin in December as he looks to move closer to linking up a heavyweight title clash with Tyson Fury.

Ngannou gave Fury all the trouble he could handle in October when he knocked the favourite down in the third round and dropped a contentious split decision, and Joshua expects another tough test on Friday.

Francis Ngannou File Photo
Anthony Joshua is expecting a tough test from Francis Ngannou (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Joshua told Sky Sports: “It’s not a gimmick, it’s not something that benefits the broadcasters, it’s not just a fight for entertainment purposes.

“This is a serious fight with someone who is prepared and understands the dynamic of boxing and he’s putting up a good fight against the apparently generational great. So, I look at it now as something completely different.

“To be classified as a world-class heavyweight I would say that you have to stay there for a period of time. But I think that he’s an athlete with a lot of potential.”

Joshua admitted that watching Ngannou’s clash with Fury changed his opinion of MMA fighters coming into boxing, which effectively began with Conor McGregor’s defeat to Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas in 2017.

“The whole MMA crossing over into boxing I looked at it as a gimmick, but now I can see that there are certain fighters in the MMA world that can box, and he (Ngannou) is one of them,” added Joshua.

“It’s good news for us fighters and good news for broadcasters because they’ve got me and Ngannou going at it in a few days.”