Anthony Joshua says his second comeback will be his last

Anthony Joshua evidently is embarking on the final run of his boxing career.

The 2012 super heavyweight Olympic champion is no longer the young, can’t-miss future Hall of Famer. He’s 33 now. And things haven’t gone quite as well as expected. He’s won major titles on two occasions only to lose them in ignominious fashion.

Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) begins his second comeback against Jermaine Franklin (21-1, 14 KOs) on Saturday in London (DAZN), his first fight since back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk.

“This run is like, what can it go on for? Three, four years?” he said, according to The Independent. “If I was going to do another run after this, you’re talking about fighting into my 40s and I truly believe that boxing’s a young man’s sport.

“It takes a real solid character like Bernard Hopkins, [George] Foreman, [Wladimir] Klitschko, [Alexander] Povetkin to go on into their 40s and stuff. But I think this is a run I want to make successful and then, you know, hopefully go out on top.”

Joshua was a juggernaut as recently as 2019, one of the two best big men in the sport with Tyson Fury.

Then disaster struck in June of that year in New York City. Andy Ruiz Jr., a pudgy, but capable heavyweight from the U.S., turned in one of the biggest upsets in recent memory: He knocked out Joshua to take the Englishman’s three world titles.

And it wasn’t a lucky punch or anything like it that turned the trick. Joshua went down four times in the fight before essentially deciding to quit.

He bounced back by boxing carefully and outpointing Ruiz in their December 2019 rematch to regain his belts and then stopped aging Kubrat Pulev in his first defense, regaining a measure of the respect he had lost.

Then came disaster No. 2 (and No. 3): Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, defeated Joshua by a clear decision to take the same titles in September 2021. Joshua performed better in the rematch last August but again was outpointed.

Joshua had lost his aura of greatness. And he knew it.

“The thing is, I do and I did want respect from people in the industry that I admire, ex-legends in the game, and when you’re not a champion anymore, you feel like that goes away,” he said.

“So that was definitely something I was yearning for, the respect from ex-champions, and when I’d lost it, it was like, ‘F—, I’ve lost that invincibility.’ But it’s all good. We move forward. I’m not really doing it for that purpose anymore because I’m not in that position, but the desire?

“One is definitely to become champion, which I think is possible within the next 16 months.”

Indeed, Joshua remains a big draw in the U.K. If he beats Frankin – and he’s a massive favorite – he’ll be an attractive opponent for the top heavyweights.

Joshua’s longtime promoter, Eddie Hearn, is already saying a long-awaited meeting with titleholder and countryman Tyson Fury is likely after Fury’s talks with Usyk for a unification bout collapsed, although Fury’s handlers are saying Hearn is jumping the gun. Fury and Joshua were expected to fight in December but talks broke off and Fury ended up fighting Derek Chisora instead.

Still, there is little doubt that a Fury-Joshua rematch could pack Wembley Stadium. That’s a motivating factor to get the fight made.

And a matchup between Joshua and fellow former champion Deontay Wilder also would do well in the U.K. given Wilder’s epic three-fight series with Fury. Joshua has expressed interest in that matchup.

“I think we’ve got to see what happens this year with the belts,” Joshua said. “… We’ll see where the belts land. Then just stay consistent, stay focused on improving for these next 12 to 16 months while I’m in title contention.”

If he loses to Franklin? That could be the last we see him.

Fight Week: Anthony Joshua will try to get back on track vs. Jermaine Franklin

Anthony Joshua says a fight between him and Deontay Wilder ‘long overdue’

Leave a Reply