Jermaine Franklin will travel back to London in April to take on Anthony Joshua confident in the fact he has secured the respect and support of British boxing fans.
The 29-year-old American is out to thwart Joshua’s plans to climb back into the heavyweight world title picture when they come face-to-face at the O2 Arena on 1 April.
Last November, Franklin made the same trip from the US to the capital to take on Dillian Whyte in what was the Brixton heavyweight’s first fight since his devastating knockout defeat to Tyson Fury. After 12 rounds, Franklin thought he had done enough. But instead, he returned home on the wrong end of a majority decision with his undefeated record gone. A frustrated Franklin told the O2 crowd that night he had been robbed and he wasn’t alone in thinking he had beaten Whyte.
Boxing is no stranger to controversial decisions and while a return to London might have prompted bad memories for the Michigan fighter, Franklin will head back to town confident history won’t repeat itself.
‘I am starting to build a nice little fan base over here,’ Franklin told Metro.co.uk. ‘The people love boxing here, they love sport here and are very passionate about it and I’m enjoying it.
‘To be honest, it was the UK fans that helped me move on from the Whyte defeat. I got a lot of messages, like hundreds and hundreds of messages telling me that I won that fight. People were writing to me saying ‘I didn’t even know you were until you fought Dillian’ but they thought I won the fight.
So just to hear that and see people agreeing with me was good enough. he got the technical decision but I won the people.’
Like Whyte, Joshua takes on Franklin coming back after his own sobering defeat having been outpointed by Oleksandr Usyk last August.
In the aftermath, the consensus was Joshua would benefit from a step back from the world title picture to take time to reassess and reset after failing to find an answer against the undefeated Ukrainian.
Franklin, who had won all 21 of his professional fights before falling short against Whyte, has been identified by some as a ‘perfect test’ for the former champion, a tough but beatable opponent and one ideal for Joshua to test the tweaks he will make working with a new trainer in Derrick James.
While Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn won’t call it that, many will regard it as a tune-up fight ahead of a possible rematch against Whyte in the summer, a long-awaited showdown with Deontay Wilder or a meeting with whoever walks away as undisputed champion after Tyson Fury and Usyk collide.
But Franklin insists he will not be a forgotten man.
‘I have always been looked down upon and I have always turned around and proved people wrong so I am not bothered by things like that,’ he said before warning: ‘It is just more people that I have got to wake up.
‘A win for sure takes me up there and puts me in that world title conversation [ahead of Joshua]. A win here, maybe another couple after that, gets me that title shot but this win most definitely puts me in the conversation.’
Joshua will emerge for fight week in just over six weeks’ time having turned to one of boxing’s most respected trainers in James – the only active coach to count two reigning unified world champions among his fighters in Errol Spence and Jermell Charlo.
Joshua cut ties with long-time partner Rob McCracken following his first defeat to Usyk in 2021 with the set-up with Angel Fernandez and Robert Garcia scrapped ahead of his latest test.
Joshua has preached the importance of self-improvement since being made to look second best again last summer and it is a quality also Franklin embraces. At 29, he has been a pro for just two years less than his opponent and while he was adamant he was the victor that night against Whyte in London last year, lessons were learned and adjustments will be made.
‘I’m a huge critic of myself,’ he said. ‘I always try to learn as much as I can and in this sport I don’t think you can ever learn enough, there is always something small or something big you can change.
‘I just try to learn as much as I can to be the best prepared I can be. You never know what kind of fighter you are going to face or what kind of fight you are going to walk into.
Dillian was a little more awkward than a lot of people I have fought but he has a lot of experience, he has been in the ring a lot of people but his style was still very different.
‘With me being the type of guy who is learning and improving all the time, I didn’t struggle with it but a lot of people will struggle with that style because it is hard to adjust to how he is or how he is punching.
‘But when you prepare, you are ready for anything. When you get to the point where you think you’ve learned it all or you know it all, you kind of hurt yourself.’