It wasn’t a particularly interesting fight. Former WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titlist of the world Anthony Joshua beat, held and essentially dominated his American foe Jermaine Franklin on Saturday at London’s O2 Arena. Ali-Frazier was not. Sure enough, it wasn’t even Joshua-Klitshcko, that magnificent 2017 pitch that saw Joshua dig deep and top former heavyweight boss Wladimir Klitschko in a big way. Joshua returned to the ring this weekend after losing to Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk twice in a row. Suffice to say, people had questions. Would Joshua get back in shape? Had he peaked? Was his mind in the right place? None of those questions were answered in Saturday’s bout, which saw the Londoner win by unanimous decision.
It wasn’t a bad performance from Joshua, all that tightness aside, but it certainly wasn’t the kind of performance that made Joshua one of the most popular fighters in the world not too long ago. Back then, Joshua was seen as a knockout machine, one who could dust off the likes of Charles Martin in about a round and a half. The aura of invincibility ended a few years later when Andy Ruiz stopped Joshua in stunning fashion. Joshua, however, was able to make changes and easily outrun Ruiz in the rematch six months later. That would not have been the case in Joshua’s rematch against Usyk last year. Once again, the popular Briton was soundly defeated.
With that in mind, it’s worth considering the possibility that Franklin was simply a much better opponent than he was initially credited with. There’s no question that Joshua managed to rock the man of him this past weekend. Surely a few of those punches would have knocked out a lesser fighter. Perhaps Franklin was simply an individual who could not be easily fooled. If so, it’s hard to argue that Joshua’s job at the O2 has been particularly disappointing.
Again, however, there was no way to tell on Saturday whether Joshua was “back” or not. While it seems clear Usyk has the number to him, no one knows for sure how Joshua might fare against the likes of Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder (although fans and analysts can certainly guess). Time will surely tell the story, but in the meantime it will be interesting to see who fights after Joshua. His next pick of opponent, after all, will be indicative of how comfortable Joshua and his team are with the prospect of once again taking on top-level competition.