NEW YORK – Eddie Hearn looks at Anthony Joshua’s upcoming fight as an opportunity to determine what the 33-year-old former heavyweight champion has left after suffering back-to-back points defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.
Joshua’s promoter dismissed criticism of Joshua’s opponent, American Jermaine Franklin, in large part because there is a lot of uncertainty related to Joshua in advance of their April 1 bout at O2 Arena in London. Franklin (21-1, 14 KOs) also legitimized himself as a contender in their division by testing Dillian Whyte in a very competitive 12-round fight Whyte won by majority decision November 26 at OVO Arena Wembley in London.
“It’s a good fight,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com. “Look, the haters will say Joshua’s finished, mentally shot, but he’ll knock Jermaine Franklin out inside of three rounds. You know, and the others will say Jermaine Franklin beat Dillian Whyte by three or four rounds, but he’s a terrible opponent for Anthony Joshua. You can’t really win. I think it’s a really credible fight to come back to. I think Franklin is good. I think there’s a lot of unknowns about AJ. He’s coming off two defeats. Mentally, where’s he at? How’s he gonna look with a new trainer?”
Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) hasn’t confirmed his new trainer publicly, but the former IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion is believed to be working with Derrick James at James’ gym in Dallas. James is one of boxing’s most respected trainers based on his history with unified welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr., undisputed junior middleweight champ Jermell Charlo and lightweight contender Frank Martin.
The 29-year-old Franklin, of Saginaw, Michigan, has lost only to Whyte (29-3, 19 KOs), whom Joshua stopped in the seventh round of their December 2015 bout at O2 Arena. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Joshua might fight Whyte next if he defeats Franklin and Whyte wins his own interim match against an opponent to be determined.
Watford’s Joshua has opened as at least a 10-1 favorite to beat Franklin, according to most sportsbooks. Hearn considers their 12-round fight more competitive than that.
“It’s a dangerous fight,” Hearn said. “I think when you’re working with a new trainer, when you are asking yourself questions, when you may have self-doubt, the last thing you wanna do is fight a guy who’s, although he lost to Whyte, coming with a lot of confidence. Because [Franklin] has realized that he can hang at that level.
“His style is not always suited to a stand-up heavyweight – I’m talking about a smaller heavyweight. Good movement. Good chin. Went 12 rounds with Dillian, and I think it’s a great fight. A lot of people who are being honest think that it’s a very dangerous fight if AJ is not the fighter that he once was. And that is the question mark, because he puts a lot of pressure on himself.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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