London: Anthony Joshua has insisted a “Battle of Britain” with Tyson Fury is the bout “the boxing world needs” after he came through a “do or die” fight with American heavyweight Jermaine Franklin.
Former world champion Joshua enjoyed his first professional victory since 2020, albeit in somewhat grinding fashion, with a unanimous points decision success at London’s O2 Arena late on Saturday.
Following successive defeats by Oleksandr Usyk, who deprived the now 33-year-old of his world titles across London in Tottenham two years ago, another loss could have meant the end of Joshua’s career.
Joshua, however, prevailed over Franklin with a decisive 118-11, 117-111, 117-111 success on the scorecards of the three judges, repeatedly landing with his left jab and hitting his opponent with several powerful right-handed punches.
There has long been talk of Joshua fighting undefeated WBC champion Fury.
But the much-anticipated bout failed to materialise when they both held versions of the world title and the London-based boxer’s losses to Usyk appeared to have scuppered hopes of the “super fight” seeing the light of day.
And with talks between Fury’s camp and that of Ukrainian hero Usyk having fallen through, the contest could yet take place after all.
There is no doubt about the fight that excites Joshua, with the 2012 Olympic champion’s professional record now standing at 25 wins, including 22 knockouts, and three defeats.
“That is the pot of gold. That is the WBC heavyweight champion of the world,” he said. “That’s what it is all about so definitely Tyson Fury.
“Yeah (another warm-up fight) would be ideal, after that long lay-off, to get active. But sometimes an opportunity presents itself and you have to grab it with both hands ... I would take it and grab it with both hands, 100 percent. The boxing world needs it.”
Saturday’s contest ended in bizarre fashion when the bell for the 12th round appeared to sound early and Joshua pressed his head into Franklin, prompting the American’s strength and fitness coach Lorenzo Reynolds to shove the home fighter.
But what really annoyed Joshua, now working under Dallas-based trainer Derrick James, was his failure to knock out Franklin.
“Deep down I am not happy because the ultimate goal is a knockout,” he said. “Nothing can top a knockout. But it is what it is.”
And he was adamant his performance proved his passion for boxing remained intact, especially given a fight against Fury was now back on his agenda.
“Do or die?,” said Joshua as he reflected on the Franklin bout. “That’s a great experience to compete in front of 20,000 people. There’s no pressure.
“Honestly it is a blessing. When I look out of that ring after a fight, I am like ... ‘that is nuts. Look at all them people’. It is humbling.
“I am definitely passionate about the game, 100 percent, for so many reasons. The list is long and I am committed until it’s done.
“The reality I am living is we are still chasing something. Yeah, I’m still chasing the dream.”