Anthony Joshua’s next fight may be more tune-up than world-caliber, but the pressure to win may be greater than ever, at least according to his promoter.
Matchroom head Eddie Hearn did not mince words as it relates to his star charge’s attempt to rebound from two consecutive defeats to WBO, WBA, IBF, IBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Joshua is set to return to the O2 Arena in London on April 1st. His opponent, according to Hearn, will likely be Jermaine Franklin, a heavyweight contender from Saginaw, Michigan, who made a name for himself last year by losing a close decision to veteran Brit Dillian Whyte.
“There’s a lot of pressure to come back,” Hearn told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “Because if AJ don’t win that fight, then we’ve got a major problem.”
Joshua came up short to Usyk in their rematch held in Saudi Arabia in August. Many believed Joshua performed better and credited Robert Garcia, Joshua’s trainer for that one fight, for his preparation.
Joshua is now in the United States, in Texas, most likely training with Derrick James, the trainer of unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. and undisputed junior welterweight champion Jermell Charlo.
Despite Joshua’s losses to Usyk, Hearn believes his client remains motivated to regain his titles someday.
“I’m telling you now this guy is still a top three heavyweight in the world capable of regaining his world heavyweight title on April the 1st at the O2 Arena , probably against Jermaine Franklin,” Hearn said. “You will see the return of Anthony Joshua. Honestly I believe you will see a statement from a guy who is very dangerous, very motivated to become a three-time heavyweight champion.”
Hearn also took aim at critics lampooning Franklin as Joshua’s likely next opponent, arguing that the Michigander cannot be regarded as a soft touch.
“Tyson Fury has just beat Deontay Wilder, just beat Dillian Whyte and then fought Derek Chisora,” Hearn said. “Anthony Joshua’s got defeat to Usyk, defeat to Usyk, and fighting Jermaine Franklin who many feel beat Dillian Whyte. I mean, it’s a really tough fight.