Anthony Joshua fights Jermaine Franklin in London this weekend and for the first time since the Londoner beat Charles Martin for the IBF heavyweight title seven years ago, there is no world title on the line. There is no such thing as a low key Joshua fight but after years campaigning at the highest level the sport has to offer, it is fair to say that the fight with Franklin is the first step of Joshua’s latest rebuilding project. For the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
Big names like Tyson Fury, Joe Joyce and Deontay Wilder will all be watching the action unfold from the O2 Arena but there are only two people Joshua needs to think about this weekend. Franklin and himself.
Joshua has won only two of his last five fights
For years, there was an air of inevitability around a Joshua fight night. AJ had an air of invincibility and his fights – and life – were routine. Train with familiar faces, work hard, sell out arenas, win in devastating fashion. Rinse. Repeat.
There has been precious little consistency in Joshua’s career since Andy Ruiz refused to fall in line and stunned him at Madison Square Garden more than three years ago. Joshua has won only two of his last five fights. He has been stopped by Andy Ruiz and outboxed and outlasted twice by Oleksandr Usyk. He has also changed his training team repeatedly and this time around he has been working with renowned American trainer, Derrick James, in Dallas.
The mission for Joshua (24-3, 22 KO’s) this weekend is to rediscover normality. He is back at the O2 Arena – the venue that catapulted him to fame – and he should be aiming to rediscover the combination punching that made him such a formidable finisher. It will help that he isn’t stepping between the ropes to try and work out how to land solid shots on a slick, elusive southpaw like Usyk. Jermaine Franklin should be much easier to find. A Joshua stoppage inside three rounds is available at 23/4.
Joshua is now 33 and has had an incredible career. Defeats will always attract more conversation than victories and no matter what he does for the remainder of his life in the ring, he will hear the same criticisms over a supposedly weak chin – although he has only ever been stopped once – and his stamina. Instead of trying to prove himself or please people over and over again, maybe the most important thing we can see from Joshua this weekend is a return to him doing what he does best.
At his best AJ remains a frightening prospect
A powerful Joshua with the confidence to plant himself in the centre of the ring, hold his feet and let his hands go is still a frightening prospect for the vast majority of heavyweights on the planet.
Franklin can fight. He was a pleasant surprise when he came over to the UK to fight Dillian Whyte last November. He was relaxed, calm under the pressure of his biggest test and probably deserved to get the close decision which eventually went Whyte’s way. Franklin bought a 21 fight unbeaten record with him to London but although he left with a first defeat staining his card, he showed more over the course of these 36 minutes than he had during the course of his whole career.
Franklin (21-1, 14 KO’s) is much more of the Andy Ruiz ilk than Usyk but he lacks the blistering hand speed of the Mexican American. The 29 year old has to stay close, make Joshua work constantly and make sure he throws whenever Joshua does. They are dangerous tactics but Franklin isn’t going to outbox a former Olympic gold medallist and former unified champion over the distance. He needs to make the fight tough, drag Joshua into a sapping, give-and-take encounter and hope that he can outlast him. If he can get through the inevitable early Joshua onslaughts and make it to the midway point without suffering too much damage, Franklin will begin to believe he has a chance. A Franklin victory is priced at 15/2.
It should be entertaining whilst it lasts
Will Joshua’s self confidence begin to wane if Franklin is still there firing back at him as the fight enters the second half? There is no shame at all in losing twice to Usyk but Joshua is still considered to be close to the top of the heavyweight food chain. In some quarters, the shellacking he took from Andy Ruiz is seen as an anomaly but there has been an air of physical and mental frailty surrounding him ever since. Joshua can be hurt and he seems to doubt himself. If Joshua finds himself being countered and hurt by a fighter like Franklin, the reality of where he stands in the heavyweight picture these days might set in very quickly.
That shouldn’t happen. The Dillian Whyte fight may have flattered Franklin slightly. Whyte isn’t the same fighter as he was three years ago and doesn’t have the same quick, clean, vicious combination punching ability of a confident Joshua. Franklin isn’t particularly mobile and may just get the shock of his life if Joshua rolls back the years and decides to impose himself and fight like a bully.
It should be entertaining whilst it lasts. Heavyweight boxing is notoriously unpredictable but the pick is for Joshua to look good against a more stationary target than Usyk. Expect him to gradually ramp up his output, mixing in more body work than we are used to seeing from him and find a stoppage between rounds seven and nine, available at 13/5.