The Weekender

Wednesday’s final press conference for Anthony Joshua’s ‘New Dawn’.

We live in an unforgiving and sometimes fickle and cynical world. This is shown in life, sport and too frequently in the boxing arena.

The same people who lauded British heavyweight Anthony Joshua for turning his life around from his difficult youth to become the 2012 London Olympic super-heavyweight gold medallist; a role model for youths from a similar background. To then, become a unified world heavyweight champion as a professional, and a millionaire face of the future, are now doubting his legitimacy and character.

Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22 KO’s) is a modern day success story as to how far sporting achievement can take a young man in the modern world. His face has adorned media outlets and billboards for much of the last decade. I recall browsing in Macy’s store in New York City in March 2017 to see the posters of him draping from the ceiling advertising the latest sportswear. He had landed globally.

What followed were more world titles, and then, he hit the canvas with a bump in the self same city in June 2019, losing shockingly and spectacularly to Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr.

The sponsorships and payments since have continued to roll in and having regained and subsequently lost versions of the world title he is now clearly a multi-millionaire. Despite this, he still feels he has to redeem himself. Foolish as this may sound to most mere mortals.

Tonight, (1 April) at London’s O2 Arena he faces heavyweight Jermaine Franklin. The American is a fringe contender with a respectable 21-1, (14 KO’s) record. 

In most people’s eyes Joshua is an outright favourite.  However, for most, a Joshua win is a ‘given’, but more importantly is how he looks. Coming off two consecutive losses to unified champion Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk and him having lost three of his last five outings, Joshua has to look good. The minimum requirement is to win, preferably by KO.

If Joshua can achieve this his shot at some form of redemption is possible. However, in the eyes of many, his lustre is tarnished and to rise to the same lofty heights is almost impossible.  He is considered what is known in the trade as ‘damaged goods’.

Maybe this view and the corresponding ridicule was a consequence of his pre- and post-fight utterances, which reached an embarrassing crescendo with his rant at the end of the second defeat to Usyk, denying the defending champion his moment in the sun.

In life now, the bigger someone becomes, the more of a target they are for trolls, cynics etc’. Then, the louder the laughs at their demise.  In many ways it’s borne of jealousy, in other cases it’s just wanting to see someone fall.  Anthony Joshua has done little to deserve this.

His story is remarkable and should be commended. But, we don’t need him to tell it, which he’s wanton to do, or his promoter to sell it.  Most, if not all successful boxers come from a background of adversity. It’s what makes them special in the first place. Joshua’s is just another story but so far one with a very happy ending.

His immediate professional peer Tyson Fury, in the eyes of many, now occupies the moral and successful high ground. His work for promoting mental health issues has been exemplary. He has also referred to making donations to charitable organisations, to be commended too.

Anthony Joshua can indeed invade and conquer this professional high ground, but first he has to defeat Franklin convincingly and likely has to go on to defeat anyone in the way, and ultimately, Fury or Usyk. Tonight he will remain active and attempt that ascent. Fury or Usyk have not fought for many months whilst they haggle over the financial split of a world heavyweight unification fight. We continue with that stalemate.

We expect this fight to be competitive in the early and mid rounds. The American is short and stocky in comparison to the Brit, but busy and a good inside fighter. Franklin weighed in yesterday just under two stone (24lbs) lighter and this could be a significant deficiency. Joshua weighed in a career high at over 18 stone (255lbs) and towers over his opponent.

Joshua has said he plans on not going back to his corner but plans on “taking him out”. He will be seeking to regain the moral high ground in any future attempt and ascent on the heavyweight crowns owned by Fury and Usyk.

Joshua could be shaken up a bit but we expect him to prevail, likely to be victorious in a clear points decision. Victory is expected and he should have enough left to deliver.

The contest billed as ‘New Dawn’ and promoted by Matchroom Boxing with associates, is available on the DAZN streaming site and via Sky platforms in the UK with pre-subscription. It is also on BBC Radio 5 Live with a 10 pm ring walk expected.

Enjoy and wait for significant post-fight announcements.

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