Anthony Joshua returns to the ring Saturday in London to face Jermaine Franklin, as Joshua looks to end a two-fight losing skid and maintain his spot as a top heavyweight contender and one of the sport’s biggest stars.
Joshua (24-3, 22 KO) has lost both of those fights to Oleksandr Usyk, of course, and this will also be his first fight that isn’t for a world title since his Dec. 2015 win over Dillian Whyte, with his last 12 bouts all being for at least one world title.
For Franklin (21-1, 14 KO), it’s obviously the biggest opportunity of his career. He also lost his last fight, a hard-fought decision to Dillian Whyte in London last November, but a win here would jump him up to the front of the pack of contenders.
Here’s what the fighters had to say today at their final press conference
“This is big. It’s massive. It’s a big fight for me for sure. I respect my opponent fully, I respect everything that he says he’s been through, and we’re here to rock n’ roll. And I respect my supporters, as well, so we’ve put in the work. And I respect my coach, as well, so I want to make sure I go out there and I get the job done in good fashion.
“I like the fact that you (Eddie Hearn) always dangle carrots in front of me, telling me, ‘If you do this, then this is here and that’s there,’ always leading onto big things. I dream big, because I want bigger and better things in my life. I want to secure the bag and move on in my life.”
“The goal’s not to make it back to the corner, the goal is to take (Franklin) out.”
On training with Derrick James: “I respect Derrick fully, and I trust everything he’s been saying. When you’re a student of the game, there’s certain times where you can be on the same level as people that you speak to about boxing, but when I speak to Derrick and ask him certain questions, the knowledge that he spits is phenomenal. Like, the knowledge that he gives me is really, really, really good. We’re at a stage now, when you’re at this side of a fight, the physical work’s done. All fighters know, like, fight week — you’re still training, because it’s just part of our nature, but the physical work’s done, it’s all about the knowledge. That’s what you’ve got to train, your mind, and honestly, Derrick is up there as one of the best people I’ve spoken to about boxing. I appreciate his time, I appreciate the fact that he took me on, because I’m sure he’s a well sought after coach, and I’m looking forward to showing him he ain’t wasting his time by taking on this project.”
On training in a more “stripped down” setting: “When you strip boxing back, it is very basic. A lot of it is down to self-belief, number one, that’s how you start off, and as I said, knowledge. You gain knowledge and apply it in the ring. You fight with desire and you can add some skills along the way. I was based in the Olympic gym in Sheffield for years, obviously that’s a big set-up, you’ve got hundreds of fighters and international fighters coming in. But in the World Class Boxing Gym in Texas, there’s a few of us pros just putting in the groundwork. ... It’s just, like, three or four of us putting in the work. But when you disconnect from everything — which is hard to do in this day and age, we’re so connected — I took myself away [and] all the questions I’ve been asking myself, the answers came in that quiet time. It’s been a good camp. It’s good to be back in the UK, but everyone knows the UK is a little bit dead. (laughs) No, I just can’t wait to get back to Texas and get back to work.”
“It’s the worst time (to fight me). The more he talks, the bigger grave he digs for himself. It is what it is. I could say a lot of things about him, but I respect my opponent. It’s not for me to talk, it’s for you to do all the talking, it’s for me to do my job on Saturday. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m prepared for a 12-rounder, but I do believe in my ability, my counter-punching and all that type of stuff, to definitely put a dent in Jermaine. But I’m not here to talk, I’ll just do what I have to do, because I really want to win.”
On wanting to make a statement: “Yeah, and that’s personal, that’s to show my coach that I respect all the time he’s put in with me. In terms of entertaining, I don’t really, like — we don’t play boxing. But at the same time, people from years back, like the empires, they just love people coming together and fighting. They’ll be entertained regardless. I think we’ll see blood. And I just really look forward to getting in there. I’m so happy I’m fighting again.
“Looking at the [heavyweight] champions, it’s just a shambles. When you’re trying to complete mandatories or negotiations, I just can’t believe that no fights have been made at the championship level. But I’m just so happy that I can get back to work and get on with my job.”
“By any means necessary, we’re just here to do our job. I respect my opponent, may the best man win. One thing he said is, like, he started eating right for this camp and all that stuff. I think he’s dealing with someone that’s been living right from the get-go. I’ve been putting in work from the day I started this business. It’s gonna be a good fight, because he’s up against a real one, for sure.”
“I’ve been on a little health journey, changed my eating habits, changed stuff I was consuming, body weight has started falling off. We’ve had more time to prepare for this fight, so I’m more ready, I’m more in shape, I’m just ready to let the fireworks go.”
“I’m just a huge fan of the sport, I watch a lot of boxing, so I watched AJ fights way before we had this opportunity or thought it was possible. But my confidence is always great. I think you’re in the wrong business if you don’t truly believe in yourself. It’s not the right game for you. You always have to have the extreme, utmost confidence in yourself. You just have to put the faith in the work behind it.”
On saying he will “knock Joshua the fuck out” in interviews: “That’s what I’m trying to do. I mean, I’m gonna get the win by any means possible, but if I can put him on his ass, that’s what I’m trying to do. Anything is possible. I come from a place without a lot of possibilities. I made it this far, so anything is possible.”
“My passion for the sport and my team and my family, that’s all the motivation I need.”
“I believe my hand gets raised at the end of the fight.”
“I win by any means necessary. If we can get the knockout, that’s what we want. If not, we win by points, we dominate.”