Joshua ‘to face’ Franklin next as previous frontrunner ruled out

Emotional Anthony Joshua explains erratic behaviour after defeat

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Anthony Joshua could reportedly face American heavyweight Jermaine Franklin in his long-awaited return to the ring later this year. Franklin was promised the AJ fight providing he beat Dillian Whyte when the pair squared off in November but after losing a razor-close split decision all hope seemed to be lost.

However, according to the Daily Star, the 989 Assassin is back in contention to box Joshua. The publication claims that Franklin is one of the frontrunners among a group of fighters in consideration after proving himself against The Body Snatcher.

So far, promoter Eddie Hearn has thrown Otto Wallin, Filip Hrgovic, Zhang Zhilei and Demsey McKean’s names into the mix but the Daily Star reports that the latter is not expected to be picked. Earlier this week, McKean claimed that he was one of the ‘frontrunners’ to face the Watford powerhouse but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

Speaking to Sky Sports on Tuesday, he said: “We are one of the frontrunners for a possible opponent for Anthony Joshua. I could be (the man to retire Joshua) and I am very confident I can do that.

“But don’t get me wrong, there is still more fights for AJ. If he loses to me, a top-10 heavyweight as well, that shouldn’t be the end.”

He added: “He is probably the biggest name in boxing, everyone is after him, including me. It is the name to have on your resume.” Joshua is expected to return to competition in April at the venue where it all started – the O2 Arena, London. Following back-to-back losses against Oleksandr Usyk, the Brit will now look to mount a third run at the world heavyweight titles starting with three fights in 2023.

Hearn has disclosed that AJ will box on April 1, July and December against varying levels of competition. The Matchroom Boxing chief states that the first will be against a ‘credible top 15 opponent’, with a rematch against Whyte to follow, before rounding off the year in style against either Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury.

Yet defeat in his first encounter could spell the end of AJ’s career. “You go into that fight in April – you know that with defeat, it’s all over, really. It would be a third back-to-back defeat,” Hearn told iFL TV.

“This is the most excited I have been on AJ’s journey so far because it is exciting. A great performance and a showreel knockout gets everyone saying, ‘We’re back, we’re back baby.’ That’s what I can’t wait for, because I love it when our backs are against the wall. They are the best moments and this is one of those moments.”

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