LONDON — A new chapter for Anthony Joshua officially kicked off on Saturday with a snoozer.
Eight months removed from his second straight defeat to Oleksandr Usyk, Joshua picked up his first win since December 2020 with a 12-round unanimous decision over fringe contender Jermaine Franklin.
This bout was built on resuscitating his career and more importantly, making a statement with a big knockout win to remain in the heavyweight championship conversation.
Sure, he won, but the fight stunk. It was more of a grappling contest than a boxing match, which the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Joshua won easily. I can't exactly recall the last time I yawned consistently during a heavyweight matchup featuring a big name; it could have been the title bout between Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury, but that was nearly eight years ago. Needless to say, this was excruciatingly boring.
Joshua's trademark during his inspiring rise to the unified heavyweight world championship was his devastating straight right hand, coupled with a desire, hunger, and determination to be the very best. The 33-year-old, however, has been missing that extra spice for some time.
Joshua and Franklin didn't appear to be hurt at any point during their 12-round bout, and it amounted to nothing more than a lucrative sparring session.
“Last time I had the mic it was a bit chaotic, but now I'm calm,” Joshua opened his post-fight interview, referring to his infamous outburst following the Usyk rematch.
“Franklin done well,” Joshua added. “I respect him for that… [His team] was prepared for the fight. I should have knocked him out, but what can I say? Now it's done on to the next.”
Joshua ended his notorious in-ring speech by calling out his British counterpart, Fury, with whom he engaged in talks for a fight in December, but nothing came of it. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist added he would be “honored” to fight for Fury's WBC world title, and that the “ball is in [Fury's] court.”
Is he ready?
Joshua has been seeking an immediate fix to his problems. For instance, after losing to Usyk, he fired long-time trainer Rob McCracken and hired Robert Garcia. After a second consecutive defeat to Usyk, Joshua is now with Derrick James.
Nothing against James, who is a world-class trainer, but Joshua should have stuck with Garcia. He looked better in the second Usyk fight than in the first. You learn more after one good loss than two underwhelming wins.
Now Joshua (25-3, 22 KOs) is back to square one again. So to answer the question, he isn't ready for Fury. Furthermore, I don't believe he has what it takes to beat former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder or rising star Joe Joyce. Against Franklin, it appeared Joshua had little to no belief in his own abilities.
Reminiscent of how Frank Warren handled the career of super middleweight great Joe Calzaghe, Joshua's team hasn't allowed their pupil to develop and take on significant challenges.
Aside from Klitschko and the mandatory fights with Usyk, he has yet to face the likes of Fury or Wilder, albeit fans have been clamoring for a fight to be made with either man for the last seven years.
Could it be that Joshua generates a lot of money, and a loss to either man would derail that stream of income? Or is Joshua himself doubtful of his chances of victory? It could be a possibility of both.
Regardless of the reason, it's a stain on Joshua's résumé.
And if his recent performances are any indication, it doesn't matter what kind of trainer you have. If you aren't there mentally or if you lack the hunger to compete, not even the most elite of the trainers can save you from yourself.