Two-time former heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua is set for a return to the ring for the first time since losing back-to-back fights to Oleksandr Usyk. Joshua will face Jermaine Franklin in an April 1 showdown in London.
After starting his career 22-0 and unifying three of boxing's four recognized world championships, Joshua has had a rough run since 2019. First, he lost his titles in June 2019 when he was knocked out by Andy Ruiz Jr. in one of the biggest upsets in the history of heavyweight championship boxing. After winning the belts back in the rematch with Ruiz, Joshua picked up a win over Kubrat Pulev before his first clash with Usyk.
In their September 2021 meeting, Joshua was thoroughly outboxed by Usyk, resulting in a unanimous decision win for Usyk and costing Joshua his belts once again. They rematched the following August, with Joshua fighting a better fight but ultimately dropping a split decision.
In late 2022, Tyson Fury publicly pushed for a fight with Joshua in what would have been a massive fight in England. Negotiations fell apart almost as soon as they began and Fury instead fought Derek Chisora and now Joshua moves on to Franklin.
Franklin (21-1, 14 KO) is coming off his first career defeat, a November majority decision loss to Dillian Whyte.
Whyte has been publicly critical of the idea of Joshua fighting Franklin, suggesting he was under the impression that his fight with Franklin came with stakes in which the winner would face Joshua. A showdown between Whyte and Joshua would do big business in the U.K.
"Everyone was told, all the boxing fans, the winner of me and Franklin fights AJ, so this is a f---ed up thing," Whyte told SunSport. "I would have been better off losing the Franklin fight and getting the AJ fight. I know DAZN need content for their subscribers but why choose to fight a low-profile American coming off a loss instead of having a massive British tear-up? It's no surprise to me that they have chosen April 1 for this battle of the fools."
Joshua promoter and chairman of Matchroom Boxing Eddie Hearn responded to Whyte's criticism by suggesting that Franklin was always going to get the Joshua fight and that a clash between Joshua and Whyte made more sense in the summer window.
"Let's see how Anthony Joshua does against Jermaine Franklin, versus how Dillian Whyte did against Jermaine Franklin," Hearn told iD Boxing. "We've always planned for that fight for the summer. Dillian Whyte was coming off a defeat, he boxed Jermaine Franklin. AJ's coming off two defeats, he's boxing Jermaine Franklin. It was a very good fight between Dillian Whyte and Jermain Franklin and we'll see how AJ compares."
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