Anthony Joshua and Jermaine Franklin in the ring at the O2 Arena

New Dawn? Anthony Joshua’s fight not good enough for false dawn

Anthony Joshua’s comeback fight against Jermaine Franklin was billed as his “New Dawn”, but in reality this was not even good enough to become a false dawn.

Joshua was supposed to be back, after back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk, and had said this was the worst time ever to fight him.

Those who travelled to the O2 Arena, London, were ready to see the show, offering the 2012 Olympic gold medallist an electric ovation as he walked out.

Cue the challenger: Franklin. Weighing in over 20lbs lighter than his opponent and four inches shorter, the American would need to be dispatched with ease for anyone to sincerely claim that Joshua was ‘back’.

Instead, the fight went the full 12 rounds, with Joshua only winning courtesy of a unanimous points decision.

Franklin’s game-plan had worked – looking to clinch and run the clock down as much as possible.

The tactic clearly wound Joshua up, culminating in a flare-up after the final bell when Joshua mimicked the move after the pair touched gloves.

After calming down, Joshua said: “I can’t blame him for his game because it’s all about me.

“If I didn’t want Franklin to hold me I had to move my feet and create space.”

This is perhaps easier said than done, but Joshua appeared ponderous and lacking the will to either do as he suggested and move those feet, or really commit and go for the kill on the front-foot.

And it wasn’t just the fighter who was left frustrated as the crowd were begging for more action than they got in the showpiece.

Hopeful cheers followed every shot which landed flush on either cheek or chin, anticipating an explosion of excitement. But it was never to be.

Eventually, spectators booed as Franklin went in for one last clinch in the final round to force a points decision.

This, after the penultimate fight between Fabio Wardley and Michael Coffie was stopped in the fourth round, after both competitors had spent time on the ropes.

The contrast was stark.

Joshua added, in justification: “He did well to stay in there. I wish I could have taken him out.

“It’s a situation that you can find yourself in where you land one shot, and the fighter’s looking like they’re ready to go and you go rushing in to land another shot and they’re just not there for the taking yet.

“If a fighter was there for the taking, believe me, if I see a wounded animal I’m going to go in for the kill. If I could have I would have.

“Someone like Jermaine, if this was a 13-round or a 15-round fight, he wouldn’t have survived, but it was a 12-round fight and he managed to see the final bell, credit to him.

“If Mike Tyson went 12 rounds with people like Pinklon Thomas and Tony Tucker, what’s wrong with me going 12 rounds?”

But this was not supposed to be a fight that went this way.

On the evidence presented, Joshua is certainly not ready to sit at the top table which Usyk emphatically knocked him off.

All the same, world-title talk and questions of a long-awaited fight against Tyson Fury were customary post-bout.

Joshua said: “An interim fight would be ideal. But sometimes the opportunity presents itself and you have to grab it with both hands.

“If the opportunity presented itself and coach and the team were like ‘it’s a good opportunity,’ I would take it.”

While Fury is relatively free as it stands, after a huge potential meeting with Usyk fell through, any encounter with one of them for Joshua seems unlikely.

To deserve such an event, Joshua will need another new dawn, to prove himself further.

If this is to be the new dawn of a new Anthony Joshua, we should hope it is a short day.

Relive the fight as it happened here.

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