ANTHONY JOSHUA has been warned there is “every chance” he will get knocked out by Francis Ngannou.
Joshua returns on March 8 in Saudi Arabia against ex-UFC champion Ngannou, who will make only his second appearance in the boxing ring.
His debut came in October against Tyson Fury, the night he amazingly dropped the WBC champion but lost a controversial decision.
British boxing legend Ricky Hatton backs AJ as a big favourite but refused to rule Ngannou out such is the power he possesses.
Hatton told OLBG: “AJ is a very good boxer and is known for his explosiveness and his power.
“But you don’t become an Olympic gold medallist and a two-time heavyweight champion of the world without the ability that Joshua has.
“But on the downside, he can be hurt, knocked down and stopped and when you think of the size and punching power Ngannou has got, there’s every chance he could knock AJ out, but the bigger picture is, Joshua is a very rounded, accomplished boxer.
“He’s very skilful and heavy-handed and it’s the right time for him because his confidence is sky high from the past couple of performances.
“If he goes out and there impresses where Tyson didn’t, it’ll work more in his favour when they sit down on the negotiation table and try and make the Tyson Fury fight.”
Joshua, 34, returned with victory over Otto Wallin, 32, in December in Saudi.
And on the same night, Wilder, 38, was stunned by Joseph Parker, 32, to see his blockbuster with AJ go up in smoke.
So with Fury, 35, and Oleksandr Usyk, 37, signed to an undisputed bout, Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn were forced to look elsewhere.
And fighting Ngannou, 37, right after Fury gives AJ the chance to one-up old rival Fury with a more clinical performance.
Hatton said: “It’s a sensible fight for Anthony Joshua to make because of how well Francis Ngannou did against Tyson Fury.
“There’s a big question mark really. Was Francis Ngannou better than what we thought he was, or did Tyson take him too lightly?
“Either way, AJ was in good form against Otto Wallin showing good boxing ability, and his confidence will be back up no.
“The fact that Tyson struggled, if AJ goes in and puts on an impressive performance then that’s a massive thing in their favour.
“I still think Tyson is the best heavyweight out there, he took Ngannou lightly, but I can see where Eddie Hearn is going with AJ in order to make the match because Tyson couldn’t of struggled anymore.
“If Joshua goes out there and impresses, it can only work in his favour.”