Anthony Joshua and his team did not see the purpose of taking on a southpaw for Joshua’s comeback fight.
That line of thinking was apparently the biggest determinator in what led Joshua to select American heavyweight Jermaine Franklin for his next fight; Franklin boxes out of the conventional stance.
The former heavyweight champion from London is scheduled to take on once-defeated Franklin, of Saginaw, Michigan, on April 1 at the O2 Arena in London.
The choice of Franklin preceded months of deliberation. Other fighters who were considered included Australia’s Demsey McKean and Sweden’s Otto Wallin. Both McKean and Wallin are southpaws, and according to Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, Joshua’s promoter, Joshua has had his fill of southpaws for the time being.
Joshua is coming off two consecutive defeats to unified WBO, WBA, IBF heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, one of the best southpaws in the sport. Indeed, Joshua never really found his groove against Usyk in the 24 rounds they shared together.
“We had a lot of fighters in the mix,” Hearn said in a video posted on Matchroom Boxing’s YouTube channel. “Demsey McKean, Otto Wallin, really it came down to style. AJ is coming off the back of two fights against a southpaw, the best southpaw in boxing in Oleksandr Usyk, and wanted an orthodox fighter.”
Hearn noted that Joshua’s training team were not convinced of the utility of facing a southpaw in April, given that Joshua’s fights later in the year will probably be against orthodox fighters, such as Dillian Whyte. Hearn has also expressed interest in having Joshua fight three times this year, with the third fight landing in December, possibly against former champion Deontay Wilder.
After enlisting Robert Garcia for one camp ahead of his rematch with Usyk, Joshua is now working with Derrick James, the trainer of Errol Spence Jr. and Jermell Charlo, in Texas.
“The training team really sort of looked at it, ‘We’re going to go and fight Wilder, Dillian Whyte, Tyson Fury, there’s no point in going back and fighting a southpaw,” Hearn said. “So we want you to showcase everything you’re working on with us and we feel like you should be doing that against an orthodox fighter.’"
Hearn said Franklin, who is promoted by Dmitry Salita, was the natural choice because he became a known quantity after his spirited effort against Dillian Whyte last year, which Whyte won on points; many viewers thought Franklin could have eked out a win. Franklin, according to Hearn, fit the bill from a stylistic and commercial standpoint.
“Obviously, the fight that Jermaine had with Dillian Whyte was a great marker for us to see where we’re at," Hearn said. "We know he’s a world-class heavyweight, there’s no disputing that. And he got the nod. He’s relevant, he’s been active after the Dillian Whyte fight, UK fans know who he is, and he’s a talented fighter.”
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