Jermaine Franklin, a once-defeated American heavyweight contender, has reportedly emerged as a serious candidate to face British star Anthony Joshua in the spring.

Chris McKenna of The Daily Star reported the news on Friday.

The development, if true, comes as a slight surprise, since Michigan’s Franklin, 29, is coming off of a close majority decision loss in his last outing to Dillian Whyte, a former Joshua opponent who, in fact, is expected to face the former heavyweight champion in a rematch later this year.

Dmitry Salita, Franklin’s promoter, did not respond to a request for comment as this goes to publication.

Joshua, 33, has suffered two consecutive points losses to Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine. Joshua lost his WBO, WBA, and IBF heavyweight titles in their first encounter in September 2021 in London. In the immediate rematch, held last August in Saudi Arabia, Joshua came up short again, albeit many observers felt he performed better. Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, is expected to fight WBC titlist Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight championship in the spring, possibly in the Middle East.

Eddie Hearn, the promoter of Joshua, stated recently that his goal is to rehabilitate Joshua this year, first by involving him in a tune-up fight in April, followed by a rematch with Whyte in the summer, and, finally, pairing him with Deontay Wilder.

Hearn has said April 1 is the working date for Joshua’s comeback fight. Joshua, who ditched his longtime coach Rob McCracken ahead of the Usyk rematch for Robert Garcia, is expected to announce a pairing with a new American coach. Hearn said Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) will train in the United States to prepare for his fight in the spring, something he has never done. Many believe that Derrick James, the trainer of undisputed 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo and unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., will be the new voice in Joshua’s corner.

Other names that have been mentioned as a possible comeback opponent for Joshua include Australian heavyweight Demsey Keane, but the Daily Star noted “he is not expected to be picked to face Joshua.” Hearn has stated the opponent will be in the "Top 15."

Franklin (21-1, 14 KOs) performed well in his losing effort against Whyte. One judge had it a draw 115-115, while the two others turned in identical tallies of 116-112 for Whyte. Many believe Franklin had an argument for winning the fight, or, at worst, earning a draw.