Anthony Joshua wasn’t spectacular Saturday night, but the former heavyweight champion comfortably got back to his winning ways with another new trainer, Derrick James, in his corner.
The British superstar was workmanlike in out-landing American Jermaine Franklin during their 12-round main event at O2 Arena in London. Judges Steve Gray (118-111), Fabian Guggenheim (117-111) and Alex Levin (117-111) all credited Joshua for a convincing victory over Franklin in a fight DAZN streamed worldwide.
Watford’s Joshua (25-3, 22 KOs), who entered the ring as at least a 10-1 favorite according to most sportsbooks, said before he faced Franklin (21-2, 14 KOs) that he would retire if Franklin defeated him.
“It was important to get the win,” Joshua told DAZN’s Ade Oladipo in his post-fight interview. “You see, Jermaine’s got – someone else will knock him out, probably, from Britain, I reckon. But Jermaine’s got a good duck-and-dive style. There was opportunities there, but he knew how to tuck up. Respect to him – he done well. He done well. I respect him for that. Well done to him and his team for preparing. They were very well prepared for the fight. I shoulda knocked him out, but what can I say now? It’s done. On to the next.”
The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Joshua looked tentative at times and initiated numerous clinches, but he clearly landed the more impactful punches, most notably right uppercuts, on his shorter opponent. CompuBox credited Joshua for landing more than twice as many punches overall than Franklin (117-of-376 to 58-of-246), including 23 more power punches (60-37) and 36 more jabs (57-21).
Joshua, 33, won a fight for the first time since December 2020, when he knocked out Kubrat Pulev in the ninth round. The former IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO champion lost his previous two fights to Oleksandr Usyk.
The unbeaten Ukrainian southpaw upset Joshua by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder in September 2021 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Usyk then out-pointed Joshua by split decision in their 12-round rematch, which took place last August 20 at Jeddah Superdome in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The 29-year-old Franklin fought competitively in his prior appearance – a 12-round, majority-decision defeat to Dillian Whyte on November 26 at OVO Arena Wembley in London. The Saginaw, Michigan native came in 22-plus pounds lighter for this bout, but he wasn’t as competitive against Joshua as he was with Whyte (29-3, 19 KOs).
Franklin didn’t exhibit enough power to affect Joshua, but he clearly needed a knockout to win entering the 12th round.
Joshua’s uppercut connected as Franklin pressed forward with about 50 seconds to go in the final round.
Joshua tapped Franklin on the back of his head as they walked away from each other once the final bell sounded. That exchange almost started a brawl, but Joshua and Franklin eventually were separated before the situation got out of control.
As the end of the 11th round neared, Franklin landed a right to the side of Joshua’s head. Joshua hit Franklin with a left hand off a break a few seconds later, but Joshua wasn’t warned for that infraction.
Joshua’s left to Franklin’s body made him take a step backward a little less than a minute into the 11th round. Joshua followed up with a right uppercut.
Joshua’s right hand snapped back Franklin’s head toward the end of the 10th round.
Franklin and Joshua traded hard right hands while wrestling for position on the inside during the middle minute of the 10th round. Joshua connected with a right uppercut and then an overhand right about 30 seconds into the 10th round.
Franklin made Joshua take an awkward step when he landed a right hand with 40 seconds to go in the ninth round. About 15 seconds earlier, McDonnell warned Franklin and Joshua for holding each other.
Joshua snuck a right uppercut between Franklin’s gloves as they wrestled for position late in the eighth round. McDonnell warned Franklin for shoving Joshua 47 seconds into the eighth round.
Franklin’s jab backed up Joshua with just over 45 seconds on the clock in the seventh round. Joshua’s left hand to the body landed 30 seconds into the seventh round.
Franklin’s right hand initiated a clinch from Joshua 1:15 into the sixth round. Franklin landed another right hand with just over 50 seconds remaining in the sixth round.
Joshua blasted Franklin with a right hand, but Franklin immediately responded with a right hand that made Joshua tie him up with about 1:20 to go in the fifth round. Franklin’s right uppercut connected less than 30 seconds into the fifth round.
Joshua tied up Franklin as they exchanged shots just before the bell sounded to end the fourth round.
Franklin and Joshua traded right hands with just under a minute to go in the fourth round. Joshua’s jarring jab was effective earlier in the fourth round.
A left hook by Joshua connected toward the end of the third round.
Joshua nailed Franklin with a right hand at the midway point of the third round and another one about 10 seconds later. Franklin fired back with a right hand of his own after that second right from Joshua landed.
With blood flowing from his nose, Joshua responded to Franklin’s right hand with a left hook that made Franklin hold him with about 30 seconds remaining in the second round. Joshua countered Franklin with an overhand right just before the midway mark of the second round.
Joshua landed a left hook that got Franklin’s attention about 45 seconds into the first round. They spent much of the opening round throwing jabs, though.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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