Joshua beats Franklin to draw a line under two Usyk defeats

LONDON (Reuters): Former world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua got back to winning ways after two straight defeats by beating American Jermaine Franklin on a unanimous decision at London’s 02 Arena on Saturday.

The non-title fight in front of a 20,000 crowd was the 33-year-old Briton’s return to the ring after suffering successive losses to Ukraine’s WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO champion Oleksandr Usyk. It was also his first win in more than two years, taking his professional record to 25 wins and three defeats.

The three judges scored the fight 118-111, 117-111 and 117-111 as Joshua — who weighed in at a career heavy 18 stone three pounds (115.7kg) — did what he had to do without lighting any fires.

Fans hoping for a dominant, explosive knockout performance to put Joshua’s name back in the headlines as a contender had to settle for a commanding, if ultimately unconvincing, display from the local favourite.

“Last time I grabbed the mic, it was a bit chaotic. I’m calm; I appreciate everyone coming out this evening,” Joshua told the crowd after the decision, referencing the second Usyk clash where he had a post-fight meltdown. read more

“I should have knocked him out but it is done. On to the next. He is here to prove himself, not roll over. I wish I could have knocked him out.” Joshua invited WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury to think again about a future fight.

“I would be honoured to fight for the WBC Heavyweight championship of the world. If he’s listening, he knows my promoter; we’ve had dialogue before, so let’s continue this. We ain’t getting any younger,” he said.

Joshua’s early punches lacked any real menace or urgency, while 29-year-old Franklin grew in confidence, on occasion cheekily poking his tongue out at his far bigger and taller opponent. Joshua, with blood seeping from his nose early on, was the clear winner but only in the later rounds lived up to the redemption hype.

Without a knockout to seal the deal, plenty of questions remained and the fight ended amid scrappy scenes. “Tonight was a step down from Oleksandr Usyk, but there was huge pressure,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “He ended the fight well…”