By: Sean Crose
It’s the day before the weekend and the eyes of the boxing world are on the former WBA, IBF, and WBO world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. For Saturday, at London’s O2 arena, the towering Englishman will return to the ring for the first time since dropping a pair of decisions to the highly skilled Alexandr Usyk. People are rightly curious to see whether or not Joshua has what it takes to return from such a sharp career decline. When he lost this title to Andy Ruiz back in 2019, after all, Joshua came back and defeated Ruiz in kind before the year was through. He came up short, however, when he tried to win his belts back against Usyk last summer.
One man marginalized by all the press attention Joshua is currently receiving is Joshua’s opponent this weekend, American Jermaine Franklin. Although he’s been a pro since the spring Mayweather and Pacquiao finally got it on, the 21-1 Michigan native hasn’t gotten much attention for himself. Indeed, Franklin lost to Dillian Whyte last November and that was the first real challenge the man had faced. With that in mind, people are openly wondering whether or not Joshua sill has what it takes to stand atop the heavyweight heap.
“I will retire if I lose,” Joshua has recently claimed. “I’m not here to battle people. If people want me to retire I will retire.” Those aren’t exactly inspiring words. Still, the 24-3 Joshua is nothing if not a competitor. He’s also an underrated fighter. Sure, Wladimir Klitschko was past his prime when he fought Joshua in 2017, but it was a very good Klitschko who battled Joshua that night – and Joshua emerged the winner. Couple that with the fact that he literally changed his fighting style to win his rematch against Ruiz and it’s easy to see why Joshua should still be taken seriously by fighters, fans, and analysts alike.
Franklin, though, knows he has the chance of a lifetime before him tomorrow. If he can beat the popular former titlist, the world may well be the man’s oyster. “I fear no man but God,” he Tweeted on Friday. “Tomorrow I shock the world.” Of course, Anthony Joshua may have something to say about that. With new trainer Derek James in his corner, the Londoner knows he has to be at his best walking in. And a determined Joshua can be a very dangerous Joshua.
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