AJ vs Franklin: Can Joshua turn back the clock?
• British-Nigerian seeks end to London jinx
After suffering back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk and fighting just two times since the start of 2021, Anthony Joshua is keen to get off to a winning start as he makes his ring return on Saturday (today) against Jermaine Franklin.
However, ahead of his return to action on April 1 at the 02 Arena, the same hype and anticipation remains as boxing fans both in Nigeria and abroad wait to see if he can start a road to redemption and become a three-time champion.
London being the venue for the comeback clash offers a new twist to the Anthony Joshua tale has it was the venue of his biggest defeat and not only for the British-Nigerian but for other Nigerians.
On 25 September, 2021 at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, Joshua suffered an embarrasing loss to Usyk in front of his home fans. It was a masterclass by Usyk and most definitely the worst defeat of the three he has suffered in his career as he was outclassed in every single round with every tactic against the Ukrainian failing.
Joshua is not the only combat specialist of Nigerian descent to have fallen in London, however, as the English city has been a thorn in the side of others before and after him.
James Oyebola (Broadway Theatre)
Way back in 1997, James Oyebola, a former WBC International Heavyweight champion lost the last fight of his ten-year career also in London at the Broadway Theatre as he attempted to finish his career on a high.
On September 28, 1997 Julius Francis defeated Oyebola in the fifth round of their bout by TKO. Francis was 31 years old while Oyebola was 36.
It was the biggest win of Francis’ career and the heaviest loss for the Nigerian as the hard hitting “Big Bad” Oyebola was destroyed in five one sided rounds. The big win over the giant Nigerian got Francis a chance at Zeljko Mavrovic for his European title.
Oyebola’s London curse followed him outside the ring as he got shot in the back of the neck and leg in the early hours of 23 July 2007 after an altercation in the Chateau 6 club at Fulham Broadway where he was visiting a friend for a drink.
Lukmon Lawal and Muideen Akanji (2012 Olympics)
At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Lukmon Lawal and Muideen Akanji failed to make it to the finals of their categories at the global competition as Nigeria failed to collect a single medal from the boxing events in London.
Competing in the Men’s light heavyweight, a 24-year-old Lawal was defeated in the first round while 20-year-old Akanji who comepeted in the men’s middlweweight suffered a loss in the heats to Ireland’s Darren O’Neill who lost in the last-16.
Tony Salam (York Hall)
African Boxing Union cruiserweight champion Tony Salam suffered the first knockout loss of his career against Courtney Fry at York Hall, Bethnal Green in London in 2008.
A 24-year-old Salam was schooled by the 32-year-old veteran in the first round of their bout and the Nigerian had his first taste of defeat at that point in his career.
Kamaru Usman (02 Arena)
The most ominous on the list and the most recent on the list, Kamaru Usman lost a trilogy fight to Leon Edwards on Saturday, March 18 at the 02 Arena and failed to reclaim his belts.
The main event proved to be a thrilling back and forth five-round affair. Edwards was able to land a plethora of kicks throughout the twenty-five-minute contest, battering the lead leg of the former champion. Usman was able to earn four takedowns in the bout, but ultimately struggled to keep the Birmingham native on his back. Although ‘Rocky’ had a point deducted in Round 3, he still did enough to emerge victorious on two of the judges’ scorecards.
Both former champions, both fighting at the same venue, both have criminal records, Joshua and Usman have a lot in common and the two-time heavyweight champion will harbor hopes that their results at the London venue will not be the same.
Joshua vs Franklin
Ahead of the clash on Saturday night, Joshua has weighed in at a career-heavy 115.7kg for the contest against Franklin weighing 11 pounds heavier than his last fight. American Franklin, 29, weighed 106.1kg – 23 pounds lighter than when he lost to Dillian Whyte in November.
“I’ve got my gameplan, got my mind right and I’m ready to go for war,” said the bulked-up heavyweight.