Anthony Joshua eyes one 'last run' to become heavyweight champion again

Englishman takes on Jermaine Franklin at London's O2 Arena on Saturday, his first ring appearance since losing for a second time to Oleksandr Usyk last summer

Anthony Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn during a press conference at the Hilton London Syon Park. PA
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Anthony Joshua is planning a "last run" at the heavyweight title, saying he hopes to become a three-time champion before he turns 35.

The Englishman takes on Jermaine Franklin at London's O2 Arena on Saturday, his first ring appearance since losing for a second time to Oleksandr Usyk last summer.

Joshua, who is 34 in October, admitted he craved the respect afforded by his peers for being champion as he looks to join the great Muhammad Ali as the only heavyweight to win titles on three occasions.

“It’s been a great run,” Joshua, the former WBA, WBO and IBF belt-holder admitted.

“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 any more you feel like that goes away.

“So, that was definitely something I was yearning for, is the respect from ex-champions and ... but it’s all good. We move forward. I’m not really doing it for that purpose any more 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.

“I think we’ve got to see what happens this year with the belts. Let them be competed for and then potentially let them go up in the air and then 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.”

Two of Joshua’s most recent wins have come against boxers who went on to fight into their forties in Kubrat Pulev and Alexander Povetkin.

Meanwhile, Wladimir Klitschko was 41 when Joshua beat him in stunning fashion at Wembley in 2016 but the former Olympic champion does not envisage himself following in their footsteps and hinted he could walk away if he can reign supreme one more time in the heavyweight division.

Joshua added: “This run is like, what can it go on for? Three, four years?

“If I was going to do another run after this, you’re talking about fighting into my forties and I truly believe that boxing’s a young man’s sport.

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

Changes have been made after Usyk inflicted a third defeat of Joshua’s professional career last August.

Derrick James is the British boxer’s new trainer – after Robert Garcia departed following one fight – and the “main voice” according to the two-time heavyweight champion, which was in contrast before his second clash with Usyk when Garcia and Angel Fernandez were both feeding him information.

A victory for Joshua, whose record stands at 24 wins with three losses, could propel him quickly back into title contention.

The much-anticipated heavyweight unification bout between Usyk and WBC-title-holder Tyson Fury appears to be off with the Ukrainian's promoter blaming “unacceptable” demands made by the British fighter.

The duo had reportedly agreed to an April 29 fight at London's Wembley Stadium with a purse split 70-30 in Fury's favour but other terms were still to be decided.

Fury's promoter Frank Warren, though, remains confident that an agreement can still be reached with the only stumbling block appearing to be over the rematch clause.

Updated: March 27, 2023, 7:17 AM