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Francis Ngannou broke into heavyweight boxing's top 10 rankings after his impressive performance against Tyson Fury last year… but who should the former UFC champion fight next?

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Francis Ngannou may have officially lost to Tyson Fury on his professional boxing debut but there is no doubt that it was a moral victory for the former UFC champion.

Ngannou was a massive underdog against boxing’s heavyweight king but proceeded to knock him down in the third and before having plenty of success over the remaining seven rounds during their fight in October last year.

Fury avoided a first pro defeat of his career with the judges scoring the fight 94-95, 96-93, 95-94 but it was Ngannou who was on the receiving end of all the praise in the days that followed.

The 37-year-old now wants to continue fighting against the biggest names in the division.

So, here, Mail Sport looks at who he could, and should, fight next. 

Many fans are anticipating an announcement for Francis Ngannou's next boxing fight

Many fans are anticipating an announcement for Francis Ngannou’s next boxing fight

The Cameroonian made his name in the MMA cage before trying his hand at boxing

The Cameroonian made his name in the MMA cage before trying his hand at boxing

Tyson Fury rematch 

If you were to ask most fans this would probably be the general consensus.

Ngannou shocked the world when he not only held his own against the heavyweight king but also out-boxed him for much of the fight in Saudi Arabia.

No one gave the former UFC star anything other than a puncher’s chance on his boxing debut but many felt he should have won the bout on the scorecards after 10 enthralling rounds.

Fury was heavily criticised for his performance after the fight, while his fans insisted it was merely a case of underestimating the Cameroonian’s potential.

The ‘Gypsy King’ would surely like to set the record straight and the events of that first fight will only serve to make this one much bigger.

Wilder put in a stunning performance as he narrowly lost to heavyweight champion Tyson Fury back in October

Wilder put in a stunning performance as he narrowly lost to heavyweight champion Tyson Fury back in October

Deontay Wilder

In terms of pure entertainment inside the squared circle, this would have to be the best option to choose.

Even after his disappointing performance against Joseph Parker in the highly-anticipated Day of Reckoning card last month, Wilder’s draw is still massive.

And, realistically, who wouldn’t want to see two of the sport’s hardest punchers go head-to-head inside the ring?

A bout between Wilder and Anthony Joshua looks dead in the water, after the former’s defeat by Parker, and securing victory over Ngannou may be his path to redemption. 

It was reported last month that the pair have been in discussions over a mixed rules fight that would incorporate elements of MMA.

Ngannou confirmed the news himself, saying: ‘The conversation of a mixed rules fight with Wilder is true, because even before this fight [against Fury], we have been having discussions.’ 

Deontay Wilder's future in boxing remains uncertain after a disappointing defeat last time out

Deontay Wilder’s future in boxing remains uncertain after a disappointing defeat last time out

Anthony Joshua

After an emphatic performance against Otto Wallin in the Day of Reckoning main event, the future suddenly looks rather bright for British star Joshua. 

While he had previously been tipped to fight Wilder in March – which has, ultimately, been derailed by the American’s loss to Parker – Joshua is still expected to return in two months’ time. 

Matchroom Sport chief Eddie Hearn recently confirmed that talks are ongoing with three different opponents – including Ngannou. 

‘Right now, we have three fights that were in discussions for they’re all big.’ Hearn told iFL TV.

‘And that doesn’t involve Deontay Wilder. Before March our aim, and we’ve discussed this, is to fight the winner of Fury versus Usyk. That is all we want to do.’

‘Obviously there’s a [Filip] Hrgovic fight out there for the world heavyweight title; there’s a Francis Ngannou fight out there which would be absolutely colossal. 

‘There’s other heavyweights as well, the [Zhilei] Zhang fight possibly as well with Queensbury.’

Anthony Joshua has been tipped to fight Ngannou but could skip the MMA-star-turned-boxer in order to launch a bid for a world title

Anthony Joshua has been tipped to fight Ngannou but could skip the MMA-star-turned-boxer in order to launch a bid for a world title

Another top 10 heavyweight

While in the eyes of many Ngannou won the fight against Fury in Saudi Arabia, his record in professional boxing still stands at 0-1.

His performance was enough to see him immediately enter the top 10 of the WBC’s heavyweight rankings.

And, due to this, it could make sense for him to target someone slightly lower down the top 10 in order to get that first win and show he truly belongs there.

The likes of Zhilei Zhang and Otto Wallin both have enough of a reputation for a victory to represent a real statement and would certainly be enticing match-ups.

Back in December, Zhang exclusively revealed to Mail Sport that he was in talks to fight Ngannou in December – before the Cameroonian pulled out of negotiations. 

Zhilei Zhang previously revealed that he was in talks to fight Ngannou before they fell through

Zhilei Zhang previously revealed that he was in talks to fight Ngannou before they fell through

PFL debut 

Many may have forgotten but in May last year, Ngannou signed a lucrative (and equally stunning deal) to join MMA organisation the PFL, after his UFC exit. 

And, as murmurs over Ngannou’s prospective PFL debut continue to circulate, PFL chief James Frewin suggested it won’t be long until we see them inside the cage.  

Speaking exclusively to Mail Sport last month, Frewin said: ‘Look, I think Donn [Davis] and Pete [Murray] have been very open about the fact that Francis Ngannou will compete in the PFL smart cage in 2024. 

‘That’s an incredible concept for any fan of combat sports, especially after what he managed to achieve against Tyson Fury. 

‘So I would get very excited about what’s to come out and I believe there will be an announcement relatively soon about his debut with the PFL’. 

PFL chief Donn Davis has suggested that Jon Jones is the only MMA star that would make a good match-up with Ngannou

PFL chief Donn Davis has suggested that Jon Jones is the only MMA star that would make a good match-up with Ngannou

However, revealing on The MMA Hour, PFL co-owner Davis admitted that there’s only one name that intrigues him – and he’s not signed to the PFL.

‘I think the opponents in pure MMA are not that interesting right now. We’re just like the fans, we’re just like the fighters. We’re not like the other companies. 

‘There’s only one guy in MMA right now who’s interesting for Francis Ngannou: Jon Jones. One guy. Everybody says, “Well, what about Stipe [Miocic]?” Maybe. Give him a half a point. 1.5 guys who are compelling.’

While a fight with Jones would be a huge match-up, the likelihood of it occurring is slim given the American’s current injury, expected match-up against Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title and the fact he’s signed with a rival company.