By: Sean Crose
It was not a particularly interesting fight. Former WBA, IBF, and WBO world heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua jabbed, held, and basically dominated his American foe Jermaine Franklin Saturday at London’s O2 Arena. Ali-Frazier it was not. Sure enough, it wasn’t Joshua-Klitshcko, either, that magnificent 2017 throwdown which saw Joshua dig deep and best former heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko in grand fashion. Joshua was returning to the ring this weekend after dropping two in a row to Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk. Suffice to say, people had questions. Would Joshua return to form? Had he peaked? Was his mind in the right place? None of those questions were answered during Saturday’s fight, which saw the Londoner winning by unanimous decision.
It wasn’t a bad performance from Joshua – save for all that holding – but it certainly wasn’t the sort of performance that made Joshua one of the most popular fighters on earth not all that long ago. Back then, Joshua was seen as a knockout machine, one who could dust the likes of Charles Martin in about a round and a half. The aura of invincibility came to an end a few years later when Andy Ruiz stopped Joshua in stunning fashion. Joshua, however, was able to make adjustments and handily top Ruiz in their rematch six months later. Such was not to be the case with Joshua’s rematch against Usyk last year. Once again, the popular Brit 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 given credit for. There’s no doubt Joshua was able to rock his man this past weekend. Surely some of those punches would have sent a lesser fighter to the mat. Perhaps Franklin was simply an individual who couldn’t be easily chinned. If that’s the case, it’s hard to argue Joshua’s work at the O2 was particularly disappointing.
Again, however, there was no way on Saturday to tell whether Joshua was “back” or not. While it seems clear that Usyk has his number, no one knows for sure how Joshua might fare against the likes of Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder (though fans and analysts can certainly guess). Time will certainly tell the tale, but in the meantime it will be interesting to see who Joshua fights next. His next choice of opponent, after all, will be indicative of how comfortable Joshua and his team are at the prospect of once again facing top competition.
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