The return of Anthony Joshua is almost upon us as the Prince of British boxing steps foot into the ring for the first time since his back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk. ‘AJ’, who is fighting back at the O2 Arena for the first time in almost six years, takes on American heavyweight contender, Jermaine Franklin on Saturday night.
This will be Joshua's first fight since the Dillian Whyte grudge match back in December 2015 where he won’t be fighting for a version of the world title. Ironically, Franklin’s last bout was of course against ‘The Body Snatcher’, who pipped the American via majority decision back in November in an extremely close fight which could have gone either way.
Let’s not beat around the bush here - this is a fight Anthony Joshua should be winning in emphatic style. Yes, Franklin went life and death with Whyte, but ‘AJ’ is on another level from those guys. Another stratosphere if you like. Outside of both Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, potentially Deontay Wilder too depending on what you like, the 33-year-old is still an elite heavyweight and one of the best of this era.
This fight should result in a routine victory for Joshua in reality. Anything other than knockout in the opener six or seven rounds for Joshua here would be massively underwhelming. To give Franklin his credit, he is a decent fighter, but let's not kid ourselves here. If Joshua is at his best, or anywhere near it, he should be walking away from the O2 Arena on Saturday night with the 23rd knockout victory of his professional boxing career.
An interesting caveat added to this fight is that Joshua has of course teamed up with legendary American trainer, Derrick James. For his last fight, Joshua had Robert Garcia in his corner, with Rob McCracken in his corner all the way throughout his career before that. Now though, Joshua has seeked a new coach, some new blood in the camp in a bid to make his way back to the summit of the heavyweight division.
It will be interesting to see what role James plays for this fight, and whether we see anything different from Joshua. More recently it seems that the Watford man has been content to box on the back foot, show more skill and technique, rather than doing what he does best - taking the fight to his opponent before sending them wilting to the canvas.
Derrick James is of course the trainer of some world class, aggressive fighters such as Jermell Charlo and Errol Spence Jr. That is some good company for Joshua in the gym. Both Charlo and Spence are beautiful examples of world class fighters in their respective weight classes, who can both box, but also have a knack of ending fights at the click of a finger.
That’s what Joshua used to be like all the way up to the Andy Ruiz Jr loss. Since then it seems something has changed in the mindset of ‘AJ’. Let's hope that this new training arrangement and new partnership with the 2017 Ring Magazine ‘Trainer of the Year’ will bring new life and that killer instinct back into the arsenal of Anthony Joshua.
At the official press conference for this fight back in February, Joshua revealed to the world that his motivation is no longer being the heavyweight champion or anything of that elk, but it’s now all about money. Promoter Eddie Hearn, trying to do his job to sell the fight of course and a narrative that Joshua is on a road back to heavyweight glory, was shot down by Joshua when the former two-time heavyweight champ revealed his real motivation for fighting:
“Money, money, money. I like making money. Straight up. Like, this is a prize fighting sport.”
Of course, there is clearly a hunger and a desire for Joshua to get back to where he belongs at the top of the heavyweight tree, with fights against the likes of Fury and Wilder. However, it is also evident that Joshua knows what his priorities are and that first and foremost, providing for his family and himself comes first now.
Jermaine Franklin lands a right hand on Dillian Whyte
Back to the fight in hand and Jermaine Franklin is an acceptable opponent in the opposite corner to Joshua on April 1st. He is a big lump of a heavyweight and can clearly punch a bit, but it remains to be seen whether he has anything at all that can really trouble ‘AJ’. Of course, he gave Dillian Whyte hell for 36 minutes as previously mentioned, but fighting someone the level of Whyte compared to fighting someone the level of Joshua is totally different.
If Joshua is anywhere near his best, he runs though ‘989 Assassin’ like a dose of salts, or as fellow heavyweight Derek Chisora would say, “like those laxative pills that you take, you wait for 20 minutes and then you go to the toilet and they go through you.” In reality, just like Del Boy said, Joshua should go though Franklin in that kind of style.
Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs)
Oleksandr Usyk - LOSS - SD (115-113, 112-116, 113-115)
Oleksandr Usyk - LOSS - UD (112-117, 112-116, 113-115)
Kubrant Pulev - WIN - KO Round 9
Andy Ruiz Jr - WIN - UD (118-110, 119-109, 118-110)
Jermaine Franklin (21-1, 14 KOs)
Dillian Whyte - LOSS - MD (115-115, 112-116, 112-116)
Rodney Moore - WIN - TKO Round 5
Pavel Sour - WIN - UD ( 98-90, 98-90, 97-91)
Jerry Forrest - WIN - SD (97-93, 97-93, 95-96)
Date: April 1st 2023
Time: Approx. 10.30PM Ring Walk (GMT)
Venue: O2 Arena, London, England, UK
Promotor: Eddie Hearn/Matchroom Boxing - DAZN
Official Joshua vs Franklin Fight Night Poster (Photo: O2 Arena)
Elsewhere on the undercard in the capital, Felix Cash faces Matteo Signani for the European Middleweight Title. Fabio Wardley also features in a heavyweight bout against Michael Polite Coffie, with Austin Williams taking on River Wilson-Bent in a middleweight contest. Prospects such as Campbell Hatton, John Hedges, Ziyad Almaayouf, Peter Kadiru and Juergen Uldedaj also feature on this stacked undercard.