Where do you go when you've lost your place as one of the best heavyweight fighters on the planet? That's the question facing two-time former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua as he prepares to face Jermaine Franklin on Saturday.
After winning the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in front of his countrymen in London, Joshua quickly proved himself one of the top heavyweights in the professional ranks. Joshua knocked out Charles Martin in the second round of his 16th professional fight to become IBF heavyweight champion. Joshua won the then-vacant WBA title three fights later with a late stoppage of Wladimir Klitschko and took just two more fights to add the WBO title with a decision victory over Joseph Parker.
With three of the four recognized world championships already in his collection, it seemed Joshua was destined to sit atop the heavyweight division for years to come. Then came a fight with lightly-regarded Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019 and the first sign that the wheels were starting to come off the Joshua wagon.
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Ruiz knocked out Joshua -- who entered the fight as upwards of a -2500 favorite -- in seven rounds, scoring one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight championship history. Joshua was able to dominate the rematch with Ruiz, winning back his titles in the process, and followed that up with a knockout win over Kubrat Pulev before facing off with former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Again, Joshua suffered an upset loss when he was thoroughly outboxed by the smaller man. Joshua entered the rematch as an underdog for the first time in his career. While he put on a better performance than the first meeting, it was Usyk whose had was raised again.
The back-to-back defeats against Usyk left Joshua in a new position, outside the top of the division and not in a spot where a world title opportunity was easily within reach. It also derailed the possibility of a showdown with fellow Englishman Tyson Fury to crown an undisputed champion in a fight that would have done incredible business as the biggest showdown in English boxing history.
Forced to rebuild, Joshua needed a "get right" fight against a capable opponent he should be expected to beat. Enter Franklin, the +700 underdog. In a fight tailor-made for him to pick up a win, Joshua has gone as far to say that he'll retire from the sport with a loss.
"I'm not here to battle people," he said. "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."
Franklin won the first 21 fights of his career, including decision wins over familiar names Rydell Booker and Jerry Forrest. That run of success led to a fight in London against former world title challenger Dillian Whyte.
The fight with Whyte was a close affair that saw both men have their moments in a largely-even battle. Ultimately, Whyte took a mildly-controversial majority decision, though Franklin proved he could hang with one of the better heavyweights in the world.
"Well, you know, he probably bulked up a little bit," Franklin said after the weigh-in. "But, you know, we ready for whatever. We got a chin of steel, so I'm not worried too much about power. He still gotta be able to touch me with it.
"We just approached this fight with a whole new attitude, you know, whole new demeanor, whole new strategy. You know, we worked very hard this camp, so, you know, we just put the game plan to pan Saturday."
Franklin now travels to London for the second straight time as the underdog dealing with a hostile crowd.
Interestingly, Joshua is also traveling back to his home country. Joshua began training with a new team in Texas following the Usyk losses, looking to both change his approach to fighting and place himself somewhat out of the constant spotlight that has shined on him in England for his entire career.
If Joshua hopes to again ascend to the top of the heavyweight mountain, he can afford no further slip-ups or unexpected speed bumps.
Let's take a look at the rest of the fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before getting to a prediction and pick on the main event.
Joshua vs. Franklin fight card, odds
|Anthony Joshua -1100||Jermaine Franklin +700||Heavyweight|
|Austin Williams -1600||River Wilson-Bent +900||Middleweight|
|Galal Yafai -1200||Moises Calleros +750||Flyweight|
|Fabio Wardley -1100||Michael Polite Coffie +700||Heavyweight|
Date: Saturday, April 1 | Location: O2 Arena -- London
Start time: 2 p.m. ET (main event ring walks approximately 5:30 p.m. ET)
Watch live: DAZN
The move to Texas to work with Derrick James indicates that Joshua understands where he stands and the importance of doing things in the right way if he's going to make another run at world championship glory. He weighed in at a career-high 255 pounds but looked absolutely ripped, not bloated or out of shape in the least.
Franklin is the opponent here for a reason. He's talented enough to win should Joshua have a truly off night, but not so talented that he should be truly competitive if Joshua shows up ready to go. It took a tremendous effort by Franklin to get a majority decision loss against a faded version of Dillian Whyte, which doesn't bode well against a fighter in Joshua, who is far better than Whyte. The real question is whether Joshua shows up looking to prove a point and make an example of Franklin, or if he plays it safe to go the distance. Pick: Anthony Joshua via TKO3