Joshua dominates Franklin on return but fails to secure knockout
nthony Joshua announced his return to the ring with a dominant points win over Jermaine Franklin on Saturday night, though failed to secure the knockout he would have so craved on his much-anticipated comeback at London’s O2 Arena.
The two-time heavyweight world champion bounced back from consecutive damaging defeats by Oleksandr Usyk on a high-pressure evening and effectively saved his career by easing to a feisty but largely one-sided unanimous decision victory with wide scores in his favour of 118-111, 117-111, 117-111, though was denied a stoppage by his extremely durable American opponent in a somewhat apprehensive and rusty display.
There were chaotic scenes at the end of the fight as tensions boiled over after the final bell, with both teams and security piling into the ring in ugly fashion amid drama at ringside to provoke memories of Joshua’s wild 2015 grudge match with arch-nemesis Dillian Whyte at the same venue before the situation was swiftly defused.
Though Joshua certainly had his moments in his first fight under the tutelage of new trainer Derrick James, working well with the stiff left jab in particular and unleashing plenty of destructive right hands and lethal uppercuts on the inside, his failure to get the knockout will lead many to question if he is worthy of the huge all-British showdown with reigning WBC king Tyson Fury that he is targeting next.
“Inside this squared circle, it’s a different type of energy in here,” Joshua said of his row with Franklin. “I apologise to anyone watching and seeing that type of stuff because we’re sportsmen. But I respect Jermaine.”
On his performance, he added: “It’s important to get the win. Someone else will knock him out probably, from Britain I reckon. But Jermaine’s got a good duck and dive style.
“There were opportunities there, but he knew how to tuck up. Respect to him, he did well. Well done to him and his team for preparing. You know they were prepared for the fight.
“I should have knocked him out, but what can I say now? It’s done, onto the next.”
Joshua once again turned his attentions to Fury, telling DAZN in a fresh call-out of his long-time rival: “The ball’s in his court. I would 100 per cent be honoured to compete for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world.
“I stand here and say that proudly – it would be an honour. Wherever you are if you’re listening, you know my management, you know my promoter.
“We’ve had dialogue before, so let’s continue this and hopefully we can get this on sooner rather than later. We aren’t getting any younger, you know what I’m trying to say.
“I can’t wait to get back to Texas, develop and push on because there’s a bigger fight. You know how one fight leads onto another, I can’t wait to get the next big fight.”
In Saturday’s co-main event, another Britain vs America heavyweight battle, Fabio Wardley added the vacant WBA Continental title to the British belt he won against Nathan Gorman last year with a confident stoppage of Michael Coffie.
Wardley unloaded a series of punishing right hands early in the fifth round with Coffie desperately covering up on the ropes, with many at ringside criticising referee Howard Foster for waving off proceedings too early. Ipswich’s Wardley moves to 15-0 with 15 stoppages and will now target a huge domestic dust-up with either Frazer Clarke, David Adeleye or Sol Dacres later this year.
Earlier, Campbell Hatton delivered a brutal left hook to the body that father Ricky would have been very proud of as he stopped Louis Fielding in the first round of the maiden eight-round contest of his ascending professional career.
Olympic gold medalist from Tokyo 2020, Galal Yafai – a late addition to the card after an ill Felix Cash had to pull out of his scheduled European middleweight title challenge against Matteo Signani – put on a boxing clinic to stop experienced Mexican Moises Calleros for his fourth pro win.
Coventry’s River Wilson-Bent also gave a spirited performance against Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams before being knocked down by the formidable American middleweight prospect and seeing his corner throw in the towel in the eighth.
On the early undercard, towering Essex light-heavyweight John Hedges easily outpointed Poland’s Daniel Bocianski with a dominant display, unbeaten lightweight prospect Jordan Flynn outlasted Kane Baker in an engrossing all-British battle and Saudi Arabia’s Ziyad Almaayouf got past Georgi Velichkov.
Swiss cruiserweight Benoit Huber pulled off a shock points win over Albanian Juergen Uldedaj and Peter Kadiru provided an early knockout of fellow German heavyweight Alen Lauriolle.