Jermaine Franklin has rejected the idea that Anthony Joshua should retire if he loses at the O2 Arena on Saturday night.
Joshua, a two-time world heavyweight champion, is coming into the fight off back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk, who took his WBA, IBF and WBO titles in the process.
The second of those defeats came back in August and his promoter Eddie Hearn says the next 'chapter' of AJ’s career begins against Franklin in London.
But many have suggested that a third consecutive loss will spell the end of Joshua, who has banked well over £100m and achieved everything he set out to in the sport already.
Franklin, however, believes that Joshua can still come back if he loses again because the man from Michigan will emerge as one of the top heavyweights in the sport before he retires.
He said: “A lot of people are painting the picture that if AJ loses this might be the end of his career and if I win this might project my career.
“I don’t buy that if I beat him he has to retire because if I say that it means I’m a bum. The world is saying that basically if AJ loses to a guy like me then he’s done but I don’t feel like that’s true. AJ can still beat a lot of guys, I just feel confident enough that I can win. I feel like the world is still sleeping on me.
“It doesn’t offend me. I need people to understand this, throughout my whole career I’ve always been put on the backburner, always been the underdog and always been looked at as the guy, the journeyman who is going to lose at the top level.
“I’ve always been fighting odds my whole career. It doesn’t offend me or make me think, it just makes me want to work harder to prove people wrong and to prove I belong in this sport and I’m a top guy.
“While I’m in this position I’ll just keep performing and keep showing the world I am one of these top guys. I’m not a journeyman or a comeback fight, I’m a real challenge.”
Franklin also believes that the defeats Joshua has suffered so far - the double to Usyk and the stunning stoppage defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019 - might well have left some mental damage that he can capitalise on this weekend.
“I won’t say the hunger won’t be the same for him but I think the loss probably messed with him a little bit,” Franklin said.
“As fighters we train to be the toughest people ever so one little slip-up, even though it’s not super damaging, can mentally harm you. If I think I’m the best and I lose the fight it can set me back. Some stuff can start depression.
“There is a lot of stuff mentally that comes behind the fight. I wouldn’t say he’s declining but he probably could have gone through something mentally that might have backfired on him.
“That one loss could have had him doubting himself. That one little seed of doubt could make him lose. Once I’m in a fight and something doesn’t go my way now the doubt comes back.He could be winning the fight but if something doesn’t come off the doubt comes right back. It’s about staying mentally strong.”
Franklin is also adamant that there are still question marks over Joshua's gas tank if the fight goes long, despite the 2012 Olympic champion winning 12-round decisions against the likes of Joseph Parker and Ruiz Jr.
He said: "The way to beat big guys is to take them the distance because they gas out fast. Watching a lot of big guys, they have skills, power and strength but it’s just the tank. They do so much in the early rounds that the tank doesn’t last until the last round.
"To my advantage, I’m able to be explosive and I still have a little more in the tank. We just try our best to turn that up more. If I can outlast you I can outwork you.”
Franklin’s last fight was a narrow decision loss to Dillian Whyte while he has also sparred with Tyson Fury up in Morecambe. So how does he currently rank the heavyweights?
“My list is pretty simple, going based on where we are right now,” he said.
“It’s Tyson then Usyk or Usyk then Tyson, it’s hard to get that order. After those two I’ve got a mix of Wilder and AJ and then Andy [Ruiz Jr] probably fifth.
“I rate myself about 8 or 9 right now, I still need some big fights but I’m no lower than 10, that's for sure.”
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