Joshua bulks up to career-high 18st for fight against Franklin

Anthony Joshua bulks up to career-high 18st for make-or-break fight against American optimist Jermaine Franklin… with the 33-year-old heavyweight seeking an early KO to boost his world title hopes

  • Anthony Joshua weighed in a career-heaviest ahead of this weekend’s clash
  • His opponent Jermaine Franklin has, meanwhile, dropped 23lbs for the fight
  • Sign up here to watch Anthony Joshua’s fight with Jermaine Franklin on DAZN

The working title for Saturday’s production at the O2 is The New Dawn. As far as the star of the show is concerned, it will be The Old Anthony Joshua. 

Make that the good old AJ. Albeit, to gasping surprise at the weigh-in, the heaviest ever Joshua after his strenuous wood-chopping axe-wielding in America’s Lone Star state.

But hopefully the retro street fighter who exploded on to boxing with fists of fury, punches flailing, all guns blazing. The way it was when he barnstormed to London Olympic gold, quickly followed by the world heavyweight title.

Then discovered that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing as he tried to out-skill Ukrainian ring technocrat Olexsandr Usyk, losing his world title and then being driven to melt-down in the rematch.

Now as he switches into comeback mode against American optimist Jermaine Franklin he is, as he puts it: ‘Going back to basics.’

Anthony Joshua (L) weighed-in a career heaviest for his fight against Jermaine Franklin (R)

The former heavyweight champion tipped the scales at 18st 3lb (115.7kg) on Friday

To propel him through what he calls ‘this process’, the 33-year-old has enlisted the aid of renowned Texas guru to champions, Derrick James. Of the new man in his corner, Joshua says: ‘I really like that he’s focused on the basics.’ Of the technical stuff, he says: ‘We’ve been working on the foundations: balance, defence. You’re stick-pow (left jab), that’s the most important punch 

‘We looked at all the great athletes around the world and you never, ever see them not doing the basics properly. I’d lost my way with that. You know, I was in search of improvement but stopped doing the right things at the right time. In only three years as an amateur and then only three more as a pro before I won a world title I was always just preparing for the next fight, not for my career.

‘After Ruiz I thought I’d better learn how to box.’ 

That after-crash course worked for the return fight, in which Joshua jabbed and moved to untroubled victory against a Ruiz who had been bingeing on his laurels.

Usyk was an altogether more complex proposition. Smaller of stature but a master of the Noble Art, the Ukrainian hero bamboozled Joshua to distraction with his lightning skills in their first fight at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Then drove him so crazy in the Saudi Arabia rematch that AJ went into a rant at the end in which he threw the belts out of the ring at the moment of another defeat but then fell on his knees in praise of his conqueror.

‘I wouldn’t say that experience has changed me or my life,’ says Joshua. ‘But for a few minutes I showed a side of me you had never seen before. I’m back to being myself now. What have I learned from those three defeats? First that in the end the leopard never really changes its sports. Second that Usyk is on a higher fitness level, a conditioning which I have to reach. Mostly that while I will still search for improvement I must be who I am.’

Joshua does not shy away from public awareness that this is a fight he must not lose to climb back into world title contention within the 16-month timescale he has set. He also has to live with the irony that having fought before 80,000-plus crowds of late, his promoter has worked nonstop to shift the last few hundred tickets for the O2.

Joshua, 33, has gone ‘back to basics’ following the consecutive defeats by Olexsandr Usyk

AJ did say at one point during fight week: ‘OK I’ll retire if I get beat.’ But he explains now: ‘I got tired of being asked that question so I just threw it out there. But there will be no decision about my future until after the fight.

You never know what can happen in a fight so whatever the outcome I see that big British fight with Tyson (Fury) still being on the table.’ 

Joshua has also revised this off-the-cuff remark, which provoked wrath in some fan quarters: ‘I’m carrying on boxing for the money.’ Saying now: ‘It’s not only the money. It’s about everything to do with boxing.’

Financial wrangling turned the proposed Fury-Usyk fight for the undisputed world title into a shambolic cancellation. Even though the Ukrainian fights for his war-torn country as well as fortune and fame.

So what really keeps Joshua, with all his millions from carefully curated business ventures, fighting on into his mid-30s? 

The American fell short against Whyte last time out, losing by a controversial majority decision

‘Three things,’ he says. ‘First for myself, second for my family, third for the community in which I live.’ 

And, let us not forget, to become a three-time world heavyweight champion. Before that can happen, he must puncture Franklin’s presumption of a sizeable upset.

That should be almost as easily done as said if the good old AJ hits him with discouraging left jabs, right hook power. Hard and early. To prevent the younger contender growing into the biggest fight of his lift, getting accustomed to the big-night atmosphere and becoming a problem in the later rounds.

He goes into this watershed having bulked up to a career-high 18st 3lb (115.7kg). But the extra poundage might become fatiguing the longer it goes. Even more so the shortest is the safest way Back To The Future.

Watch Anthony Joshua vs Jermaine Franklin, this Saturday April 1st, live & exclusive only on DAZN. Watch this fight as part of your monthly DAZN subscription. Sign-up at

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