Sportsmail can exclusively reveal that Anthony Joshua has agreed to face American heavyweight Jermaine Franklin at the O2 on April 1.
Joshua has not stepped foot in the ring since his second-successive defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in August 2022 – having lost his WBA, WBO and IBF belts to the Ukrainian mastermind in September last year.
However, Sportsmail can confirm that Joshua will face Franklin – who trained alongside Tyson Fury in the build-up to his showdown with Dillian Whyte in November 2022.
Anthony Joshua (R) will face Jermaine Franklin (L) when he steps back into the ring in April
Joshua and Franklin have agreed on the financials for the fight and will sign the final paperwork later this afternoon.
The fight between the two heavyweight boxers will take place in the United Kingdom at the O2 Arena on April 1.
Joshua will be looking to reassert his dominance in the heavyweight division, while Franklin will be looking to bounce back after his defeat to Whyte in November 2022.
Joshua (right) suffered second-straight defeat by Usyk (left) in August (above), having lost his WBA, WBO and IBF belts to the Ukrainian in September last year
Joshua looked set to face Fury in December but negotiations between the two British boxers collapsed in October after the Gypsy King grew frustrated with how long AJ’s team were taking to sign the contract.
AJ was disappointed to see the deal fall through as they had made good progress – having agreed on the financial terms of the fight, splitting the purse 60/40 in the favour of the WBC champion.
The pair had also named the Principality Stadium in Cardiff as the chosen location and agreed on the TV rights – which were said to be stumbling block. However, it wasn’t meant to be.
AJ was then linked to unbeaten Australian heavyweight Demsey McKean as the southpaw called for the fight after he won the IBF Intercontinental heavyweight belt last October.
He will face Franklin (right) – who went toe-to-toe with Dillian Whyte (left) in November 2022
However, it was the British boxer who emerged victorious from the bout at Wembley Arena
However, Sportsmail can confirm that Joshua has agreed to take on Franklin instead. He will face the American heavyweight at the O2 Arena on April 1.
Franklin went toe-to-toe with Dillian Whyte in November 2022. However, it was the British boxer that emerged victorious with a majority decision after their 12-round contest at Wembley Arena.
Franklin felt as though he had been ‘robbed’ – with Michael Alexander scoring their bout level at 115-115 while Juergen Landos and Grzegorz Molenda scored the fight 116-112 in favour of Whyte.
Speaking after the fight, Franklin said: ‘I felt like I got robbed. I felt like I did enough to get the decision. I felt like I won the earlier rounds. I just felt like I got robbed on the decision.’
Eddie Hearn (right) and Joshua (left) were ringside for the fight between Franklin and Whyte
Franklin is eager to prove himself against Joshua and promoter Dmitriy Salita (left) is confident he can pull off an upset before facing the winner of Tyson Fury vs. Usyk
The American was disappointed to have lost the fight considering he entered the ring with a professional record of 21 wins, 0 loses and 0 draws, having knocked out 14 of his 21 opponents.
However, Eddie Hearn – who was ringside along with Joshua – defended the judges’ decision, but admitted that he understands why others scored the bout in favour of Franklin.
Speaking after the fight, Hearn said: ‘I thought Dillian won the championship rounds to win the fight by a round, maybe two rounds. I can see a draw, and when it is 115-113 I can see it the other way as well. So I don’t blame people for thinking Franklin might’ve nicked the fight because it was a very close fight.’
But despite acknowledging that the bout could have gone either way, Hearn was adamant that Whyte’s victory did not constitute a robbery.
‘It’s not a robbery at all. It was a very close fight. I feel it was 115-113 to Whyte. I can see a draw. Can I see 115-113 to Franklin? Not really, but maybe… Anyone who says that’s a robbery is thick as s*** in all honesty.’
Franklin (left) trained alongside Fury (middle) ahead of his clash with Dillian Whyte
Franklin is eager to prove himself against Joshua and promoter Dmitriy Salita is confident he can pull off an upset.
‘Joshua, coming off two losses, changing trainers, is vulnerable,’ Salita previously said. ‘Let’s be honest. Jermaine realises it. He feels like he has his own future and path. He’s ready to go out there and score the upset. Some feel like it could be an upset, and some don’t.
‘But Jermaine’s going out there looking to score the win. After, he wants the rematch with Dillian Whyte, and then he wants to fight the winner of [Tyson] Fury vs. Usyk.’