Deontay Wilder isn’t convinced there is anyone in the sport who hits harder than him.

That would also include boxing newbie Francis Ngannou, the former UFC champion who made a reputation for himself as a dangerous puncher in the mixed martial arts world.

Ngannou demonstrated that the hype behind his punching prowess was somewhat warranted in his better-than-expected effort against Tyson Fury in October in which Ngannou dropped Fury in the early going of their 12-round heavyweight bout. Ngannou clipped Fury with a hook in the third round.  

The outcome of that high-profile bout, which took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has enhanced Ngannou’s name in the boxing world, which was mostly skeptical about the French Cameroonian’s inaugural attempt to box.

But the 38-year-old Wilder, who held discussions to fight Ngannou earlier this year, made it clear in a recent interview that Ngannou is overstepping his boundaries by calling himself the hardest puncher in combat sports.

“Hey, man, you gotta have confidence in yourself,” Wilder said of Ngannou in an interview with Brian Custer on The Last Stand Podcast. “You gotta do that. You gotta feel good about yourself. He feeling good. I’m proud of Francis. That’s my African brother. He’s [Cameroonian] and I’m Nigerian, so we back-to-back. I’m happy for him. But the thing is, women lie, men lie, but numbers don’t lie. Numbers don’t lie, baby. I’ve been doing it for a very long time. And every man I’ve faced I’ve knocked out and put them on the canvas. You understand me? I don’t think that’s the same for him. But you know, he got power, and he can punch, we can give him that.

“But when it comes to the hardest puncher in all of combat sports, you’re hearing the voice and you’re looking at the man that holds that title,” Wilder continued. “That’s facts, that’s facts, that’s facts. When guys fight me, they automatically think about cheating because they feel like I have the advantage over them. You understand me?”  

Wilder, of course, infamously contended that Fury cheated in multiple ways during their rematch in February of 2020 that saw Wilder get knocked out in seven rounds. Their third fight, in October 2022, ended with Wilder getting stopped in the 11th round. Wilder's blatant calls of cheating from Fury, however, were without evidence and dismissed by many as pure conspiracy. 

Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) is set to fight for the second time in two years when he takes on former titlist Joseph Parker on Dec. 23, in Riyadh, on a card headlined by Anthony Joshua’s 12-round bout against Otto Wallin.

Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing