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Johnny Nelson backs Anthony Joshua to beat Francis Ngannou - but warns of high risk in crossover fight

Former cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson expects Anthony Joshua to beat Francis Ngannou but added there is plenty of danger for the Brit; Joshua and Ngannou will meet in heavyweight clash live on Sky Sports Box Office on Friday March 8

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Former cruiserweight world champion Johnny Nelson believes it would be the end of Anthony Joshua's career if the Brit loses to Francis Ngannou but says he cannot see anything but a victory for AJ

Johnny Nelson expects Anthony Joshua to comfortably beat Francis Ngannou in their crossover showdown but warned of the danger the former world champion faces in taking on the MMA star.

Joshua continues his attempt to work his way back into world title contention when he takes on former UFC heavyweight champion Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on Friday March 8, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

Cameroon-born Ngannou emerged with huge credit from his first foray into boxing when he knocked down WBC king Tyson Fury in a split-decision loss in Riyadh last October, and while former cruiserweight world champion Nelson believes Joshua will emerge victorious, he underlined the high-risk stakes of this bout.

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Ngannou has already given Joshua a chilling prediction of his strategy for March 8

"I think he comes through it with flying colours," Nelson told Sky Sports News. "I think Joshua wants to be world champion again, I think Joshua knows what responsibility he will have. He will know 'I just have to get through this fight and get the win' because of the big pot of gold at the end of it.

"Common sense is risk-reward. For me, the risk way outweighs the reward. If Joshua somehow loses to Ngannou, that is it - credibility is gone, career is in tatters, and it is a lot of rebuilding.

"The risk is far too high, why would you? If you lose to him, all the Olympics, all the success, being two-time heavyweight champion, it is all gone, it has gone up in smoke because that is what you remember, you lost to a guy who had one previous fight before you.

"To me, common sense, I wouldn't do it. Business-wise, I wouldn't do it, but Ngannou has got himself into a position where you cannot ignore him."

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In knocking down Fury, the 37-year-old showed his punching power and that is one facet of his game Joshua will surely have taken notice of.

Yet Nelson believes the biggest danger the 2012 Olympic gold medallist faces is if Ngannou is able to get in close during the fight, where he will be able to deploy the inside fighting techniques he has honed in MMA.

"He is used to getting up close and personal," Nelson said. "Making them feel uncomfortable, tying them up, wearing them down, then getting a shot.

"Once he is in, that is his safe spot, that is his world. He will be a better inside fighter than Joshua, trust me because this guy knows what he is doing on the inside.

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Johnny believes Joshua should not have taken the fight against Ngannou, because a loss to the former UFC champion could potentially end his career

"Joshua knows he can punch. Joshua knows he has the knockout ability to get rid of him so I would not be surprised if Anthony Joshua thought 'I am going to stay in the pocket and knock you out'.

"Common sense would be, if you use your boxing ability, it is day and night. But it is the devil in the detail and that is where the problem might lie."

Joshua has rebounded from back-to-back defeats to unified champion Oleksandr Usyk with three straight wins, the most recent of which came in December last year when opponent Otto Wallin retired from the contest following the fifth round.

The winner of this clash could well earn a shot at the winner of the upcoming undisputed heavyweight title match-up between Fury and Usyk, but Nelson cautioned it is effectively make or break for Joshua as far as the 34-year-old's career goes.

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One Championship kickboxer Liam Harrison joins Sky Sports' Nik Hobbs and Jon Dennen on the MMA Club to preview Ngannou's blockbuster fight against Joshua

"It has got to be just for him as an individual," Nelson said. "It is hard to swallow when you, all of a sudden, realise you are not the best fighter in the world, but you want to be the best fighter in the world.

"The great side of our sport is the glow, and the downside is when everybody wants to be your boss and tell you how bad you do.

"Joshua, he needs to get these wins, the pride he has. To possibly lose to Ngannou, how would he be able to lift himself mentally, never mind how the press will crucify him?

"So, he understands what he has got to do - and I suppose we all do."

Watch Joshua vs Ngannou live on Sky Sports Box Office on Friday March 8.

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