Anthony Joshua is still “searching for greatness”.
Twice before Joshua has been a heavyweight world champion. Now though, after consecutive losses to Oleksandr Usyk, he finds himself without a title of any sort for the first time since 2015.
AJ is on the comeback trail, returning to action at the O2 Arena in London on April 1 against American
For this next bout he will also have a new trainer in his corner, Derrick James whom the former champion is training with in Houston.
“When you’re searching for greatness, when you’re searching for better you’ve got to go outside of your comfort zone and go looking and searching,” Joshua told Sky Sports News.
“I ended up in Texas and Derrick James is a good coach amongst many other trainers out there. But in the small roster that I chose, I felt Derrick was a good fit for me.”
Crucially for Joshua he will take on Franklin with a new mind-set. For this fight, for the first time in a long time, he feels like he has nothing to lose.
“I’m looking at myself as a contender. When you have the belts and are champion, you have to fight a certain way. Because [you’re against] someone who’s coming to take what you have,” Joshua said.
“There’s different mind-sets to you trying to protect what you have. Now I haven’t got anything to protect so I’m going to come in with a different mind-set so that’s what different about it.
“It’s a natural transition. Like the hunter and the hunted. I’m just on the different end of the spectrum now and I’ve just got to rebuild. Jermaine Franklin’s on that same end of the spectrum too, so it’ll be a good fight.”
Franklin last boxed in the UK in November, when he lost a close majority decision to Dillian Whyte. Joshua insists he is treating the American as a real threat.
“It shows what type of fighter he is. Let’s not underestimate my opponent,” he said. “I respect him, I rate him and I’ll take him seriously.”
Joshua continued: “It’s a new year so I’ve got to leave that [Usyk defeat] in the past and look forward. Jermaine Franklin is a good fighter for sure. Someone I respect and rate because it would be silly of me to underestimate any opponent and I’m looking forward to getting back in the ring.
“I don’t know why but it feels different to what it usually is. But we’ll see how I acclimatise to walking in as someone who’s a contender for the championship now.”
There is an eventual deadline for him to win another title. The 33-year-old does not intend to keep boxing into his 40s.
“I just want to have time to still live and have fun,” he said. “As an athlete we try and have fun but even when you’re out you’re still thinking about when you sleep, what you’re eating, you’ve got to drink water, so you’ve always got things playing on the back of your mind so I want to be young enough to just be free.”
He’s not ready for that yet though. “I think people fear the unknown. So when I decided to become a fighter it’s what I dedicated my life to,” he said.
“I don’t know anything else. Because this is the first career I really had and chose to dedicate my life to. So for me to step into a different career, retirement for example, it’s the unknown. So who knows what that looks like.
“For a certain amount of time I want to give my life and energy to fighting and I haven’t hit that time yet. So I’m just going to continue working towards that.”