Can Jermaine Franklin Spring a Surprise in London on Saturday?
American heavyweight Jermaine Franklin (21-1, 14KOs) returns to London on Saturday for his second consecutive bout in the city.
Just as he was when he faced Dillian Whyte at Wembley Arena in November last year, Franklin is once again a large underdog as he arrives on English shores to face Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22KOs) at the O2 Arena on April 1.
Written off by most before he stepped into the ring with Whyte, Franklin gave a good account of himself that night. Although the judges awarded Whyte the win via majority decision, many knowledgeable observers thought Franklin had done enough to secure a draw or perhaps even win the fight.
It wasn't to be but Franklin's showing convinced promoter Matchroom to offer him another opportunity as the B-side against their biggest heavyweight star.
For a promotion billed as “New Dawn,” the fight week narrative has focused on this being Joshua's first steps back towards the top of the division. Franklin is looking to ruin those plans. Fans around the globe can watch the bout on DAZN.
After examining Joshua, and where he is at going into this fight in a piece written just after this fight was announced in February, it's time to balance things out with a closer look at Franklin.
Who Is Jermaine Franklin?
A professional since 2015, Jermaine Franklin, a native of Saginaw, Michigan, worked his way through C and B-grade heavyweights in his first 21 contests. His undefeated run brought him to London to face perennial world title challenger Whyte.
As detailed above, the 6'2″ American was on the short end of the decision that night, but he has spoken positively about the experience gained against Whyte.
“I'm very strong mentally,” Franklin stated this week when asked how he dealt with his first career defeat. “My team and the fans made me feel okay about the decision. This is boxing, sometimes it happens in boxing. We don't all get fair shakes. I didn't cry about it, I just went back home and started working. You've got to knock them out or you've got to dominate them in conclusive fashion.”
At 29-years-old it seems Franklin has a mature outlook on his profession. The Michigan boxer has also dealt with adversity of another kind. Between October 2019 and May 2022 he was out of boxing. Franklin has stated that his two-and-a-half year boxing hiatus was caused by an issue he had with his former manager.
According to an October 2022 article in the Daily Mail, Franklin said: “I was having issues. I had to support my family and I wasn't really making money from boxing. I had to work to be able to support my family and then I had problems with my old manager. I had to file bankruptcy to get my assets back in order. My old manager got me in trouble with all kinds of stuff. He really didn't have my best interests at heart.”
Experiencing this, and coming through it certainly backs-up Franklin's claim that he has the mental strength to deal with what is coming his way on Saturday.
Franklin's Fighting Style and Areas He Might Exploit
With his height and reach being less than many of the men he faces, Jermaine Franklin brings a busy, in-and-out style to the boxing ring. He has the ability to land eye-catching combinations on the counter. This was a tactic he used against Whyte.
With Joshua working under new trainer Derrick James for the first time on Saturday, the home fighter is perhaps feeling a bit of pressure to win in style – stating that his goal is to “take him (Franklin) out.”
If Joshua is overly aggressive and defensively irresponsible then the door could open for Franklin's quick counters.
On the defensive front, Franklin will need to frustrate Joshua in certain moments of the fight. Sharp movement and knowing when to make things untidy will help him with this. With on-going questions about Joshua's stamina, Franklin's chances of an upset may increase as the fight progresses.
It has been suggested in some quarters that Franklin boxes in a similar way to Andy Ruiz. Perhaps this is because he has similar height and reach to Ruiz. As readers know, Joshua was shockingly upset by Ruiz in June 2019, although he did avenge that knockout loss, defeating Ruiz by unanimous decision in the December 2019 rematch.
Franklin has distanced himself from Ruiz comparisons. “We're two different fighters,” Franklin told reporters on Tuesday. “We don't have the same style. Andy probably provides a little more pressure than I do, he fights a little more in spurts. I try to use my jab more and work inside-out.”
One final factor to consider is the pressure on both men. Jermaine Franklin has come through a trouble-filled couple of years and is now being rewarded with better paying fights. With no expectation of him winning this fight from the wider public, he might be able to relax and produce a career best performance.
Joshua on the other hand is under immense pressure. With three defeats in his last five outings, and now working with his third head-trainer, Joshua has spoken of retiring if things go wrong for him under the O2 lights on Saturday. I can't imagine he will be feeling very relaxed when the opening bell rings.
Preparation, Feeling Overlooked and Answering the Question
Since arriving in London at the beginning of the week, Franklin has looked leaner than we have seen him in the past.
“I've been on a healthy journey,” the fighter quipped when asked about this at Wednesday's press conference. “I've changed my eating habits, changed stuff I was consuming. The body weight just started falling off.”
Franklin continued, “We had more time to prepare for this fight, so I am more ready. I'm more in shape and ready for the fireworks to go.”
In all sports, for underdogs to succeed, it helps them if they can channel the feeling of being disrespected or overlooked into the correct type of chip on the shoulder defiance.
Jermaine Franklin understands this, and addressed it this week: “I find it disrespectful that people think I'm not a great fighter, they think I'm not a good fighter. I find it disrespectful, but that is the type of sport we are in. I've always been overlooked. In my opinion I've just got to go out there and show him that I'm not what they (the majority) think I am. They call me a tune-up and they say I'm going to get knocked out in four or five rounds. I'm coming here to kick ass and show the world this isn't it.”
That sounds like the right kind of attitude and determination for Franklin to be bringing to the show on Saturday.
Without predicting a win for the visiting fighter, I do think there are enough factors lining up for this to be a very tricky assignment for Anthony Joshua. Franklin possesses the exact skill set that will cause Joshua issues if the Englishman starts to rush his work in search of a knockout.
All the pressure is on Joshua. With a “New Dawn” ready to break on the UK boxer's career, it would be slightly ironic if, on the weekend after the UK clocks sprung forward to usher in many months where the days are filled with more hours of daylight, Jermaine Franklin delivers a performance which turns Joshua's new beginning into a darkness filled shortest day.
I'm giving Franklin a 25% chance of pulling it off.