Anthony Joshua, the former two-time unified heavyweight champion, made his long-awaited return to the boxing ring on Saturday night at the 02 Arena in London. Joshua’s opponent, Jermaine Franklin, was seen as a crucial test for the British star, who was looking to get back on track after two consecutive defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.
Before the fight, Joshua had made headlines by claiming that he would retire from boxing if he lost to Franklin, putting his illustrious career on the line. However, the 33-year-old boxer put in a strong performance and secured a unanimous decision victory over Franklin.
The judges scored the fight 118-111, 117-111, 117-111 in favor of Joshua, who relied heavily on his jab throughout the fight. Despite being the clear winner, Joshua was criticized for his conservative approach and failure to drop or finish Franklin, who showed remarkable durability in the ring.
Joshua’s victory over Franklin could potentially set up a massive summer showdown with Tyson Fury, who is currently the WBC heavyweight champion. Talks for an undisputed title fight between Fury and Usyk fell apart recently, leading to Joshua calling out Fury and expressing his willingness to compete for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world.
“I try to provide for the fans. Who do the fans want? They said Fury? The ball is in his court,” Joshua said. “I would be 100 percent honored to compete for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world.”
“We have had dialogue before so let’s hope we can get this done sooner than later. We are not getting any younger.”
Throughout the fight, Joshua looked more composed and focused than in his previous fights. He has gone through a rollercoaster of a career, switching trainers and undergoing a constant process of reinvention. For this fight, Joshua sacked trainer Robert Garcia after just one fight and worked with Derrick James, who was named the 2022 coach of the year.
Despite the criticisms of his performance, Joshua was pleased with his victory and expressed his respect for Franklin’s efforts. “When people come to fight me, they muster up a different kind of energy. I feel like he had a lot of pride. He was here to prove himself and he didn’t come to roll over. I wish I could’ve knocked him out, 100 percent. In the next 15 years, no one will remember this fight,” Joshua said.
Overall, Joshua’s return to the ring was successful, but there is still room for improvement. Fans will be eager to see how Joshua performs in his next fight and whether he can secure a title shot against Fury.