The term ‘mixed reviews’ is probably the best way to describe how Anthony Joshua’s comeback win over Jermain Franklin, 21-2(14) has been called. Joshua, having his first fight with new trainer Derrick James and also tipping-in at a career-high 255 pounds, got the ‘W’ against Franklin, but there was no devastating KO, there was no emphatic “I’m Back!” statement last night in London. There was no real drama (until after the fight, quite ironically, when Joshua and Franklin, both heated, went at it a little bit before order was restored).
Joshua, 25-3(22) won by commanding scores, for sure, but going in, everyone said AJ needed a win by other commanding means, as in via stoppage or flat-out knockout. Joshua jabbed well at times and he obviously carries real power and always will. But the hit and hold stuff the former two-time champ employed didn’t go down too well with the fans, or the critics, and there were opinions put out after that fight that said Joshua “isn’t the same guy any more.” That AJ “is a gun-shy operator and always will be now.”
How much damage that June 2019 KO loss to Andy Ruiz really did do to Joshua’s psyche, will will perhaps never, ever know. But watching last night’s fight left many a fan with the distinct impression that Joshua doesn’t like getting hit one bit, that he will from here on in use hit, hold, grab and lean tactics to avoid a shot at all costs. You can call it smart tactics perhaps – and this “new approach” sure worked for Wladimir Klitschko when he came back from those heavy defeats against Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster – but fans want entertaining. And Joshua used to be one heck of an entertaining, KO artist of a heavyweight.
It does seem, though, that those days have gone for good.
So what next for AJ? Still a huge name of course, Joshua has numerous options; the big one being a date with Tyson Fury. Yeah, we’ve been here before (groan), but in light of where both British giants are right now – Fury without a fight after the Usyk showdown collapsed, Joshua getting his return win but failing to impress – maybe this IS the time to make what could be the biggest fight in British boxing history.
“When people come to fight me, I think they muster up a different kind of energy,” AJ said last night, before lamenting on the fact that he didn’t register the KO. “I feel like he (Franklin) had a lot of pride. He was here to prove himself, he ain’t here to roll over. Yeah, I wish I could’ve knocked him out, 100 percent, but in the next 15 years, no one will remember that fight, anyway. I know who the fans want (next). They said Fury, yeah? The ball’s in his court. I would 100 percent be honoured to fight for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world. Wherever you (Fury) are, you’re listening. You know my management, you know my promoter, we’ve had dialect before so let’s continue this, and hopefully we can get this on sooner rather than later. We’re not getting any younger.”
Joshua is 33, Fury is 34. Together they could still give us one enormous spectacle. But at their respective career stages, are Fury and Joshua capable of giving us a great fight, a thrilling fight, a memorable (for all the right reasons) fight?