Nine rounds were over when Anthony Joshua’s arms hung limp over the ropes in the corner of the ring. Blood was dripping from his nose, and his beautiful white trousers were already soiled. In front of him a man was jumping from one leg to the other, he was constantly hitting, especially hooks, he hit uppercuts. He punched the air every time. Joshua watched impassively. The man was his new coach, Derrick James. And he showed the former heavyweight world champion how he should box now. Joshua got up from his chair. Time for the tenth round.
He marched on Jermaine Franklin, his tough opponent who, while rarely challenging him in the first nine rounds, also refused to fall. However, this was also due to the fact that Joshua had often boxed too hesitantly. He hit a couple of straight hands, then finally got close enough to Franklin to make the hooks his coach asked for. From below, from the side. Later he hit several times with his massive right straight. But Franklin, who also had a few good moments, still didn’t fall down. End of the tenth, the best lap.
“I should have knocked him out”
After two more, sometimes somewhat hesitant rounds, the Brit Joshua, 33, clearly won the duel against the American Franklin on points. But after the verdict, he initially stood motionless in the ring again. He said, “I should have knocked him out.” He had wanted to demonstrate against Franklin that he is still a dangerous heavyweight boxer, one who can fight for the world championship again, one who can become world champion again. Now he seemed like someone who is not sure himself which of these is true.
In his two previous fights, each against the Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, Joshua had clearly lost. With his varied, intelligent style, Usyk had made it clear how much the athletic Joshua, who was powerful on the best days, was missing at this level. Especially in the first fight, Joshua often seemed hesitant, sometimes even unsure. The duel against Franklin was intended as one that would restore his security. Actually.
Joshua’s goal is to one day face off against his eternal rival, compatriot Tyson Fury. Fury boxes like Usyk, is difficult to predict, and also a master of mind games. Joshua didn’t seem strong enough to face him on Saturday. He was packed with muscles like never before in his career, 116 kilograms, three kilograms more than in April 2017, for example, when he won early against Wladimir Klitschko. But too often he was too reserved, as if he didn’t dare to use all that power. His power would probably be the only chance in a duel with Fury.
Not the usual swagger of a challenger
When Joshua was asked after the fight in the ring in London who he wanted to box next, he passed the question on to the audience – and of course they just called out one name: Fury. He would be “100 percent honored” if this fight came about, Joshua said. So it wasn’t the industry-standard swagger of a challenger. But that of a boxer who remains reserved in appearance. “The ball is in his corner.”
Joshua wants to box twice this year, it is quite possible that he will not compete against Fury in the summer. The fight against his compatriot would at least be advertised as historic, but to fulfill that promise in the ring Joshua needs even more confidence in himself and in the style that his new trainer James wants to teach him. The duel with Franklin was not revealing enough, Joshua himself said: “In 15 years nobody will remember this fight anyway.” Is correct.