Dissecting Anthony Joshua's boxing challenge to Alex Pereira

Antony Joshua thinks Alex Pereira should try boxing next ... but how good is that idea really?
Alex Pereira
Alex Pereira / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Pereira has only been in the UFC for three years and has already accomplished so much, being a two-division UFC champion and having wins over former champions on his resume. He is getting so dominant in his division, that he is talking about a possible move to heavyweight in pursuit of another belt.

Pereira is so powerful, he can knock out anyone and can make history as the first three-division UFC champion. With the possibility of reaching peak greatness lurking, there was a big name outside the UFC who shared an intriguing idea for Pereira to pursue possibly. Heavyweight boxing contender Anthony Joshua tweeted, “Alex Pereira should make a boxing debut one day.” Pereira did not entirely close the door as he responded, “I’m honored you think so. It’s always been my dream, I’m 37 I cannot make a career in it, so who do you recommend I fight?”

There are cases for why Pereira should not and should pursue a high-level, boxing match in the future. Though he is 37, he is in his prime right now as he is defending his title against high-level contenders. Pereira will get older and slower one day, decreasing his ability to perform at a high level anymore. Anderson Silva fought in MMA until he was 45 in 2020 as he retired with multiple losses, with injuries involved. Silva later miraculously improved to be successful in boxing. He most notably became skilled enough to beat a young, active boxer, Julio César Chávez Jr, in June 2021 by split decision and took the rising star, Jake Paul, to a unanimous decision, despite losing. Silva shows older athletes can compete well in boxing, but his competition was low level compared to elite, big-money fights.

So far, there have been two major instances where UFC fighters pursued high-level boxing matches while being in their prime in their UFC careers. Conor McGregor was the first major instance, as he boxed undefeated legend Floyd Mayweather in August 2017, after coming off making history as the UFC's first simultaneous double champion. McGregor went 10 rounds with Mayweather and outperformed everyone's expectations despite losing. He became a rich, major superstar from that event. Part of the success was his boxing background before he did MMA. Francis Ngannou did not come from a boxing background, but that did not stop him from becoming a heavyweight UFC champion, as he knocked out nearly every top contender in his path. Ngannou left the UFC following a contract dispute over wanting to get a contract extension while being allowed to box. He ended up boxing undefeated heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in Oct. 2023. Fury won, but he got taken to a split decision, where he arguably lost as he got dropped and nearly finished. Ngannou trained with legend Mike Tyson before the fight, which helped him perform impressively. After the Fury fight, he boxed Joshua in March 2024, where he got knocked out in the second round.

How would Alex Pereira do in the boxing ring?

Could Pereira do well, given his background and compared to other UFC athletes who boxed? He could as he came from a successful, kickboxing background and those boxing gloves are usually 12-16 oz, compared to pro boxing's 8 oz gloves. Kickboxing allows kicks and knees, while boxing does not. That means it could be hard for a kickboxer to have the same striking success in boxing. One can be durable when fighting in kickboxing and MMA, but that likely does not translate to boxing. Ngannou was durable in the UFC and never once was knocked out until he boxed Joshua. Ngannou's story is mentioned because Pereira falls into the range of possibly boxing light heavyweight and heavyweight professionals. The boxing gloves may be bigger than the 4 oz MMA gloves, but the boxers are still conditioned and well-built enough to knock out anybody. Pereira can also knock out any heavyweight boxer, as his power has a long record of translating into smaller and bigger gloves.

Would it be worth it for Pereira to try a high-level boxing match one day? Yes, it is worth a try, as Pereira's power can be used to knock out anyone. Massive boxing matches can also be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, which would get Pereira paid way more than normal UFC matches. Pereira's good chin may not translate to heavyweight boxing, but the risk of getting finished is always there in every fight. If Pereira can have success in MMA at a later age in a short amount of time, he certainly can be disciplined enough to have some success in boxing, even if it is not a full career. It would be wise if Pereira pursues boxing only after he leaves his UFC career on a good note, with achievements. That would make significant offers in boxing more likely to come. He should also try heavyweight in UFC before, as well, to see if he can perform well at the weight.