Anthony Joshua wins – but knows he should have knocked out Jermaine Franklin
By Gareth A Davies, at the O2 Arena
Anthony Joshua targeted a blockbuster showdown with Tyson Fury after his points decision victory over Jermaine Franklin.
He said: "I try and provide for the fans. I know who they want. They said Tyson Fury; the ball is in his court. I would be honoured to fight for the WBC Heavyweight Championship of the World.
"If he's listening, he knows my promoter; we've had dialogue before, so let's continue this. We ain't getting any younger."
The judges scored the bout with Franklin 118-111, and 117-111 (twice) in favour of the two-time world champion.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter of 10 years, said: "We want the Fury fight. We believe it can be made. The nature of the victory was always going to be important, but he has the right to call out Fury or Deontay Wilder."
New trainer Derrick James, after his first camp and fight with Joshua, added that "there is no rush" to fight Fury. It would be no surprise to see Joshua fight Dillian Whyte next. But the sport's aficionados would prefer the biggest fights out there.
Against Franklin there were glimpses of the vulnerable Joshua, a dose of gun-shyness in the early rounds and some of the great attacks of old. There was superb fitness, and stamina. There was even a little pushing, shoving and animosity.
Apologising for the brief fracas after the final bell, Joshua said: "I'm calm; I appreciate everyone coming out this evening. Inside the ring, it is a different energy so I apologise to those watching. I respect Jermaine."
He added: "It was important to win. Jermaine has a good duck-and-dive style. Somebody else from Britain will probably knock him out; respect to him, he did well. I should have knocked him out but it is done. On to the next. He is here to prove himself, not roll over. I wish I could have knocked him out."
Despite the lack of a knockout, Joshua totally outboxed the No 34 heavyweight in the world, for his first victory since December 2020, when he had stopped Kubrat Pulev in the ninth round with three heavyweight world titles on the line.
Since then, two defeats to Oleksandr Usyk had consigned Joshua to a rebuilding process under new trainer James, in Dallas Texas. Defeat would have cast Joshua into the wilderness, from which it might have been impossible to return.
Now, though, he can look ahead again to projecting himself into mega-money contests with the other leading heavyweights in the world.
As it happened, below
The rebuilding of Anthony Joshua has started. No, it wasn't the knockout victory that would have propelled him back toward the top of the heavyweight division, but it was a very clean, very solid showing that proves, at the very least, that he's a difficult man to beat.
And by the sound of his post-fight interview, we'll see Joshua in action again this summer. Against whom is not at all clear.
AJ's team on the future
"AJ is going to want the biggest fights. Tonight was a step down from Oleksandr Usyk, but there was huge pressure. He ended the fight well, but like he said they aren't getting any younger. We would be willing to entertain those conversations to go straight into a Tyson Fury fight in the summer.
"We've got Dillian Whyte down there, Deontay Wilder, a lot of good fighters. I think he will improve under Dereck James. There are a lot of improvements to make."
Derrick James (Joshua's trainer)
"After this we'll build, build, build."
Joshua: 'I should have knocked him out'
"Last time I grabbed the mic, it was a bit chaotic. I'm calm; I appreciate everyone coming out this evening."
On the little fracas after the bell:
"Inside the ring, it is a different energy so I apologise to those watching. I respect Jermaine."
On the result:
"It was important to win. Jermaine has a good duck-and-dive style, somebody else from Britain will probably knock him out; respect to him, he did well. I should have knocked him out but it is done. On to the next. He is here to prove himself, not roll over. I wish I could have knocked him out."
On what's next:
"I try and provide for the fans. I know who they want. They said Tyson Fury; the ball is in his court. I would be honoured to fight for the WBC Heavyweight Championship of the World. If he's listening, he knows my promoter; we've had dialogue before, so lets continue this. We ain't getting any younger."
Joshua wins by unanimous decision
The judges' cards:
Can't see Joshua losing this one
Here comes the verdict....
Joshua and Franklin still lashing out at each other after the bell! Security pour into the ring. Sounds like the two corners are going for each other outside the ring too. Looked like it kicked off after Franklin's trainer threw a little punch at Joshua, albeit after Joshua went back for a little more of Franklin after the bell.
The two men are separated without any lasting damage done. Now it's down to the judges.
A right jab from Joshua, and a left, still taking full advantage of his range. Franklin needs a knockout but he's hanging back. Now Joshua has a strong word with Franklin. Crowd loved that. AJ nudges his opponent with the left trying to set up a big right.
A succession of right uppercuts on the inside from Joshua. Can't believe Franklin's absorbed those! How's he not gone down? Crowd responde ith the biggest cheer of the night. Franklin ends the bout with some haymakers.
Both men still holding their shape. Big combo from Joshua into the body and then a right uppercut that snaps Franklin's head back. Franklin lands his own right though, with power. Now the round calms down a bit.
Looks to me like Joshua is prepared to gamble here. He knows he's on top and there's a calmness in his face that seems to say he's prepared to see this one through. That's so, so dangerous though. He can't afford to get caught out by one devastating punch.
Franklin keeps getting caught by Joshua's right hand. Three in a row there, but he gets one back himself with a left jab. Joshua is picking his shots in this round though, and finding plenty of them. Joshua rocks Franklin on the inside with a big right uppercut. Nasty! Really heavy. Think Franklin got his own big shot in there too though. Now Joshua with a right jab that finds its target. Another massive right jab from Joshua! Franklin has done well to stay on his feet in that round!
Think it is fair to say the American now needs to knock out Joshua if the's going to win this one.
Getting into the business end of the fight now. Plenty thought AJ would have finished this by now.
Now a lazy long left hand from Joshua but Frankline too tired to take advantage. Joshua has thrown 42 jabs to Frankin's 16! That's the approach of a man willing to go the distance.
Frankin lands with a big right hand. Crowd felt that one too! Fight is getting much messier now.
Tony Bellew, on DAZN, has all seven rounds in AJ's favour. Not sure the judges will be quite as confident.
Referee breaks the two men apart after a fine, statuesque sequence from Joshua had Franklin in trouble. He just stood and delivered there. Textbook heavyweight jabbing. Franklin holding again. He's the more tired, and even stumbles briefly, but it was loss of balance, not the result of a Joshua punch. Joshua puts in a small shove to the head after the bell, which earns him a referee's reprimand.
Franklin lands with the left jab. Joshua misses with a big left hook. Again Joshua lands a left jab followed by a right. There is some blood on his white shorts, from a split bottom lip. Franklin lands another jab. Both men land with a left hook inside.
Very clean fight so far.
Joshua bouncing on his feet at the start of this one. Lands a couple of rights. That's got to be taking its toll on Franklin now. By the first quarter of this round, Joshua has landed 25 power punches to Franklin's 14, according to TV graphics.
Massive, massive left uppercut from AJ. Crowd responds with a cheer. They've been generally cagey though. That shot was a confidence booster for Joshua and his supporters.
Franklin holds for a bit, then the round ends with a smile between the two.
Joshua lands a left hook; Franklin lands a left uppercut. It's all about that left jab from the Briton though. Franklin, worrying about it, walks straight onto a big right hook. Think that's wobbled him. Now it's the American looking tired. But he lands the right uppercut again, followed by the left jab. Joshua landed a decent body shot too.
Joshua started that round looking like he was doing enough but ended it looking on top.
Franklin rocks back Joshua's head with a jab, and some trash talk from teh American there too. He's growing in confidence but gets lazy and finds AJ's fist in his mouth...twice, three times! Good shots from Joshua who has found his range. Another very powerful left jab from Joshua and the sweat flies from Franklin's face. Looks like he took it well though.
Then a real flurry of punches from both men at the end of the round. Both letting loose there. Franklin's corner reckon Joshua is tiring.
If there was a cut to Joshua's face earlier, it's not in evidence now.
Franklin takes a shot but responds with an accurate left hook. AJ evades a savage combo from Franklin. But now the American breaks through. AJ felt that one and now he's hanging back, on the back foot. Looks more leaden-footed in this round too. Franklin tries a succession of left jabs, easily avoided by Joshua who connects with the right hand at the end of the round.
If we were expecting a more aggressive Joshua, we've certainly not seen it yet.
Joshua suddenly much more agile on his feet. Still leading with that left but connects with his right. Referee has a word with the American.
Joshua tries a couple of left jabs to the body, which Franklin dodges. Then successive hits, first with the left, then the right. Franklin felt those. And another right from Joshua finds its way through but Franklin lands his own combination. Joshua ducks a right hook and counters with a powerful attack to the body. Neat work from the Briton, but he appears to be bleeding somewhere on his face.
Slow start from both men. Joshua misses with a left hook and misses with a big right jab. Connects with the left, then into a clinch. Franklin with the marginally lower guard. Joshua using his left hand to find range and lands a combination. Franklin tries to come in underneath but can't find a clean shot. Now he catches the Briton with a left hand to the chin.
Words exchanged there at the end of the first round? Joshua seemed to turn and move back towards Franklin as he headed for his corner.
Joshua in white shorts, red gloves
Franklin in black shorts, black gloves. The height difference between the two men really shows as McDonnell tells them to behave. Here we go. Round one....
Preceded by a live rapper (sorry, no clue), the Briton enters in a hooded white robe and red gloves. Does AJ look nervous?! Er, yes. Undoubtedly. There's swagger, but that calm confidence that he used to exude has been replaced by the look of a man who knows he's in for a battle, if not just tonight then certainly for the next few years of his career.
Franklin steps into AJ's face to share a few quick words, through a snarl.
Marcus McDonnell is the referee taking charge of this one.
Franklin's ring walk
Hair in a high bun, wearing a loose black gilet, the 29-year-old Franklin strolls to the ring. Does he look nervous? Not especially. He does look nice and loose-shouldered as he ducks between the ropes. Huge boos there for the American.
Here comes AJ.
Time for those ring-walks
There are now 20,000 people crowded into the sold-out O2 Arena. It's ring-walk time. Jermaine Franklin, the 989 Assassin, up first...
Prediction, from Gareth A Davies at the O2
Joshua is a huge favourite, for good reason. Upsets do happen, especially in heavyweight boxing, where one punch can change everything, scuppering reputations and ability. Franklin has to be given a puncher's chance.
I see Joshua giving Franklin big, booming problems with both his hands and his presence. What is inside Joshua's head will count, but he must know deep down that nothing less than destruction will not satisfy the watching world, his promoters, and DAZN, his broadcast partners.
Joshua will throw hard, and will, in my view, stop his American foe early, between four to seven rounds. AJ will not want to go any longer. No one gets paid for overtime in boxing.
From Simon Briggs, inside the O2
The walk-on time for Joshua is listed at 10.41pm on the Matchroom fightcard - but some of the earlier fights have arrived a bit early.
They just broadcast a video on the jumbotron which featured Eddie Hearn acknowledging that Joshua's career "is getting towards the end of the book", but also claiming that "He has fallen in love with the sport again" and still has plenty of ambitions.
Where the fight will be won and lost
Here's tonight's tactical preview, from Telegraph boxing correspondent Gareth A Davies. You won't find a writer with more expertise.
Heavyweights do not have to cut weight, but with Joshua (255.4lbs) at his career-heaviest indicates that the two-time former world champion from London is looking to have a short, powerful performance looking to get the job done early. Conversely, Franklin (234.12 lbs) is much lighter than for his contest against Dillian Whyte last November (Franklin's only defeat, on points, in his 22-fight career) and will favour taking the fight longer and gaining inroads against a fatiguing AJ.
In that respect, the risk AJ's team are taking is that he is going for an early stoppage; if Franklin survives early onslaughts, the underdog may gain in confidence and become a thorn in the home fighter's side.
Franklin is not the quickest with his footwork, and could be described as a plodder, but he has fast hands. His lightness and fitness may give him more opportunity to move out of range, and his trainer Jesse Addison told Telegraph Sport he has been working on his footwork and agility in this camp in Hollywood, Florida.
Franklin will have watched how Andy Ruiz threw his hands in exchanges with Joshua, and is banking on exposing the weaknesses AJ had that night in New York in 2019 when the Briton suffered his first defeat. Franklin will let his fast hands go in time with Joshua if he can get inside.
Joshua, after using his jab to establish range early, will look to unleash his left-right and left hook combinations - and uppercuts inside - if he can get his foe into the corners. Joshua said this week that he believes he will stop Franklin in the 10th round, yet conventional wisdom given his weight and the jeopardy in this contest mean that Joshua will try and walk Franklin down and is unlikely to sit back.
The perfect result for Joshua would be a finish inside four of five rounds, poleaxing or demolishing the American with a combination finish.
We're now ahead of schedule
Eddie Hearn, tonight's promoter has just tweeted to say that the ring walks are now only 20 minutes away.
Approx 20 mins til ring walks.. #JoshuaFranklin @daznboxing
— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) April 1, 2023
Two quick knockouts appear to have put us ahead of schedule. Fabio Wardley (below) just beat Michael Coffie in the fourth round in the final warm-up act. Buckle up, folks.
AJ vs 989 Assassin – the tale of the tape
At the weigh-in earlier this week, here's how the two measured up.
Joshua vs Franklin
Age: 33 vs 29
Fights: 27 vs 22
Wins: 24 vs 21
Losses: 3 vs 1
Draws: 0 vs 0
KOs: 22 vs 14
Height: 6ft 6in vs 6ft 2in
Weight: 255lb vs 234lb
Reach: 82in vs 77in
Betting on tonight's main event?
Take advantage of the best free bets and betting offers, curated by The Telegraph.
What are the odds?
Anthony Joshua 1/12
Jermaine Franklin 7/1
Reminder: Joshua says he'll retire if he loses tonight
Here's what he told Telegraph Sport earlier this week:
"I will retire if I lose. I’m not here to battle people. If people want me to retire I will retire. I’m not going to fight if people don’t want me to. It’s not even about the money. It’s about the competitor in you. That’s what’s important."
How Franklin plans to take down AJ
Franklin is giving up four inches in height and five inches in reach to Joshua, not that he sees this as a problem.
“I see he struggles a little bit with smaller guys," Franklin said this week. "He likes to trade punches at points in the fight, so we’ve just been looking at that and looking at different ways we can attack or adjustments we can make to make him more uncomfortable. I’m one of those guys who will sit there and I’ll go back and forth with you in exchanges, but my biggest thing is being safe. Boxing is a brutal sport so you’ve got to protect yourself in there and just do it the smart way.”
If Franklin claims he isn't worried about his opponent, he's still nervous about the judges after that controversial points decision against Dillian Whyte.
“This time I just know that I have to be more dominating," he added. "I have to make it to the point where the judges can’t deny me anything. If it’s not a knockout then it’s a domination brutally. I will go at him, see what he does, see if we can get him to make mistakes early.”
How to watch (or listen to) the fight live
If you want this one on TV, you'll need to take out a subscription to DAZN, the streaming service with whom Joshua has signed a five-year deal.
You can sign up here, for a minimum fee of £9.99 (which is considerably cheaper than any of AJ's previous PPVs - surely a mark of how far his star has fallen.)
The radio commentary is on TalkSport 2 or Radio 5 Live.
An opponent with little to lose
Franklin's most recent bout was a controversial loss, on a majority decision, to Dillian Whyte. So if there's a sense in which Anthony Joshua can't really win tonight (see previous post), then it's rather the opposite for Franklin. If he wins, he jumps into the top echelon of heavyweights, albeit that is a crowded place right now. But he's expected to lose - and if he does, well, it won't really make a huge difference to his potential in the division.
Before the Whyte bout, Franklin was 21-0 for his career. And to thing, only last year he was still working in a wool factory in Michigian.
“Before I got the Dillian fight, I wasn’t in the gym at all, because I wasn’t making any money," Franklin said. "So I had to work and take care of my family. And then we got that fight. It meant I could then train properly, dedicated,” Franklin said.
Joshua's Catch 22
For boxing correspondent Gareth A Davies, Joshua needs to do more than just win tonight; he needs to obliterate the World No 34 if he is to get his career anywhere close to where it was before those twin defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.
"Fights against Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte and Joe Joyce are all attainable," Davies says. "But only if Joshua delivers a dominant knockout in the style that propelled him to stardom."
Joshua's new trainer, the American Derrick James, disagrees though. For James, the only thing that matters tonight is the win. "If we go the distance that’s OK," James said. "This is our stepping stone, keep building, keep building – not to say Franklin is an easy fight either. This is just us getting our feet wet together."
That difference of opinion rather sums up Anthony Joshua's predicament. At this point in his career, he's damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't.
"If he blows away underdog Franklin in two rounds," Davies writes, "it will be said the fight was a foregone conclusion, a 'gimmee'. If the fight goes the full 12 rounds, the cries will be that Joshua 'should have got him out of there earlier'."
On schedule at the 02
The arena is, er, a little sparsely populated for the undercard (which is admittedly underwhelming). But it'll be rocking for Joshua, a fighter whose popularity hasn't tumbled as far as his reputation.
Currently in the ring are middleweights Austin Williams and River Wilson-Bent, knocking ten bells out of each other. This is bout six of nine tonight.
Ring walks for AJ and Franklin are still predicted for about 10.30pm.
A case of win by any means for Anthony Joshua
Victory is the only thing on Anthony Joshua's mind as he prepares to face Jermaine Franklin at O2 Arena.
Having lost three of his past five fights (two to Oleksandr Usyk and one to Andy Ruiz) defeat tonight is unthinkable, with the damage to his reputation and career probably terminal. That's not lost on the former heavyweight champion who insists that he doesn't care how he wins, he just wants to get his career and bid for another world title back on track.
"It is win by any means necessary. We are just here to do a job," Joshua said. "I respect my opponent and may the best man win. One thing he said is he started eating right for this camp, well he's dealing with someone who has been living right from the get go.
"I have been putting in work from the day I started this business. It's going to be a good fight because he's up against a real one, for sure.
"The goal is not to make it back to the corner, the goal is to take him out."
A first win since 2020 for Joshua could open the door for him finally to face fellow Briton Tyson Fury later this summer.
Deontay Wilder and old rival Dillian Whyte have been mooted as potential opponents and the 33-year-old is eager still to dream big during the latter stages of his professional career.
"It's big, it's massive. It's a big fight for me, for sure," Joshua said. "I respect my opponent fully and respect everything he's been through and we're here to rock and roll.
"I respect my supporters as well so I have put in the work, I respect my coach so I want to make sure I get the job done in good finish."
Stay here for all the pre-fight build up and action with the ringwalks expected from 10.30pm.