It won’t come as anything like a shock or a surprise to fight fans, but according to a breaking news story from Mail Online, former two-time heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua will fight once-beaten heavyweight contender Jermain Franklin next. This fight, pretty much an open secret since earlier this month, will be signed this afternoon, the Mail article reports, and the fight will take place at The O2 in London on April 1.
There had been talk of AJ fighting unbeaten Australian slugger Demsey McKean, but Franklin is a far more credible and proven fighter. Beaten only by Dillian Whyte, this via close, debatable majority decision back in November, Franklin now has an even bigger fight with which to crash into the big time. Franklin impressed some fans with his performance against Whyte and the 29 year old from Saginaw, Michigan is talking a good fight going into the Joshua fight.
At least Franklin’s promoter, Dmitry Salita, is talking a good fight:
“Joshua, coming off two losses, changing trainers, is vulnerable,” Salita said. “Let’s be honest. Jermain realises it. He feels like he has his own future and path. He’s ready to go out there and score the upset. Some feel like it could be an upset, and some don’t. But Jermain’s going out there to score the win. After, he wants the rematch with Dillian Whyte, and then he wants to fight the winner of Fury versus Usyk.”
This is some bold talk from Salita, whereas Franklin himself is a pretty modest guy who isn’t one to shout and scream. But the fact is, if Franklin, 21-1(14) can get the win on April 1, he will be right up there, able to call for the biggest fights. And Salita may well be right when he says 33 year old Joshua is vulnerable. Coming off those two humbling losses to Usyk, the second defeat forcing AJ to have some kind of mid-ring meltdown, Joshua’s confidence cannot possibly be up to speed.
It’s a cliché in boxing, but this fight really, absolutely is must-win for Joshua, 24-3(22). A fourth loss would be nothing short of devastating. In Franklin, Joshua will not be facing an especially big puncher (although as we know, all heavyweights can bang to some degree), but AJ will be in there with a solid, durable fighter who has shown a good engine. How might Joshua’s stamina hold up if this fight reaches the later rounds?
This is a good, solid comeback fight for Joshua, at the very least. If Franklin fights as determinedly as Salita says he will, it could prove to be more than that.