Anthony Joshua needed a win more than anything Saturday night because he hadn’t emerged from a fight victorious in 27 months.
From that perspective, soundly out-pointing Jermaine Franklin in their 12-round bout amounted to a success for the 33-year-old former heavyweight champion. Joshua admitted afterward, though, that he was disappointed with his performance because Franklin made it to the final bell at a sold-out O2 Arena in London.
“Deep, deep, deep down, I’m not happy because ultimately the ultimate goal was a knockout,” Joshua stated during his post-fight press conference. “There’s nothing that can top a knockout. Anything short of that isn’t what I’m happy with. But it is what it is. As I said, I can’t look back anymore. What’s done is done and I can only build on it. That’s the mindset.”
Franklin (21-2, 14 KOs), of Saginaw, Michigan, has not been knocked out in 23 professional fights. Joshua (25-3, 22 KOs) has won only one of his six bouts by knockout since the Watford, England native’s seventh-round, technical-knockout victory over Russia’s Alexander Povetkin (then 34-1) in September 2018 at Wembley Stadium in London.
After back-to-back, 12-round decision defeats to Ukrainian southpaw Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs), the ex-IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO champ won a fight for the first time since he knocked out Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev (29-3, 14 KOs) in the ninth round of their December 2020 bout at OVO Arena Wembley in London.
England’s Joshua believes he could’ve stopped Franklin inside the distance had he let his hands go more than he did. Franklin’s sturdy chin enabled him to take the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Joshua’s hardest punches, but Franklin lost by wide distances on the scorecards of judges Steve Gray (118-111), Fabian Guggenheim (117-111) and Alex Levin (117-111).
Veteran trainer Derrick James appeared pleased overall with Joshua’s performance in their first fight together. Joshua just wishes he would’ve taken advantage of chances he felt he should’ve exploited to knock out Franklin, who stands four inches shorter than him and weighed in 20-plus pounds lighter than Joshua.
“There was opportunities,” Joshua said. “There was opportunities for sure where I pushed [for a knockout]. But you know what as well? I’m fighting someone who come in with a plan to win. He had a good training camp. You know, you saw him last time out, he went 12 rounds with Dillian [Whyte]. So, he’s fresh. I think he had four months out the ring, so he come off a good 12 rounds with Dillian. He had a good camp this time. He said he’s fit, he’s fresher. So, yeah, he done well. He done well to stay in there. I wish I coulda taken him out.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.