Britain’s Anthony Joshua said he should have knocked out Jermaine Franklin after the former world heavyweight champion returned to winning ways with a unanimous, if laboured, points-decision victory in London on Saturday.
After 12 rounds, Joshua, fighting in front of a home crowd at the 02 Arena, was given the win by 118-111, 117-111, 117-111 on the scorecards of the three judges in this non-title fight.
This was the 33-year-old Joshua’s first win since 2020 after successive defeats by Oleksandr Usyk saw the former Olympic champion lose, and then fail to regain his global titles.
“It was important to win,” Joshua told DAZN after a bout where another loss could have ended his career.
“Jermaine has a good duck and dive style, somebody else from Britain will probably knock him out; respect to him, he did well.
“I should have knocked him out but it is done. On to the next. He is here to prove himself, not roll over. I wish I could have knocked him out.”
The judges’ verdict meant Franklin, 29, had suffered the second defeat of his 23-fight career after losing to Britain’s Dillian Whyte at Wembley in November.
Joshua, who had lost three of his last five bouts, repeatedly landed with his left jab and caught Franklin with several powerful rights, but the American refused to yield and went the distance.
There was a bizarre finish when the 12th and final round appeared to end eight seconds early, with Joshua pushing his head into Franklin.
The move sparked an angry reaction from Lorenzo Adams, the strength and conditioning coach of Franklin, who pushed the London fighter.
The boxers and their corners clashed momentarily after the final bell before security stepped in to calm the situation.
But soon afterwards Joshua’s hand was raised in victory, his 25th win in 28 professional fights, to maintain hopes of a “Battle of Britain” clash with WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
“I try and provide for the fans,” said Joshua. “I know who they want.
“They said Tyson Fury; the ball is in his court. I would be honoured to fight for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world.
“If he’s listening, he knows my promoter; we’ve had dialogue before, so let’s continue this. We ain’t getting any younger.”
The unbeaten Fury’s last contest was a trilogy bout win over Dereck Chisora in London in December.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, added: “He (Joshua) ended the fight well, but like he said they aren’t getting any younger.
“We would be willing to entertain those conversations to go straight into a Tyson Fury fight in the summer.”