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Report: Anthony Joshua, Jermaine Franklin Finalizing Contract for April 1 Fight

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 24, 2023

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - AUGUST 20: Anthony Joshua looks on ahead of their World Heavyweight Championship fight against Oleksandr Usyk during the Rage on the Red Sea Heavyweight Title Fight at King Abdullah Sports City Arena on August 20, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Francois Nel/Getty Images

Heavyweight star Anthony Joshua is nearing an agreement with Jermaine Franklin for a fight on April 1 in London, according to ESPN's Mike Coppinger.

"Terms have been verbally agreed but there are no signed contracts yet, sources said, who added that there are other options for Joshua in the unlikely event the deal falls apart," Coppinger reported.

The former champion is looking to get back in the win column after suffering back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk. The England native is more than two years removed from his last victory, a ninth-round knockout of Kubrat Pulev in December 2020.

Three weeks ago, promoter Eddie Hearn laid out a plan that would lead Joshua to a marquee matchup with Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder by the end of 2023:

Michael Benson @MichaelBensonn

πŸ“‹ Eddie Hearn has revealed Anthony Joshua's three-fight plan for 2023:<br><br>πŸ“† April - Return vs Top 15 Opponent<br>πŸ“† Summer - Likely Dillian Whyte II<br>πŸ“† Autumn - Tyson Fury/Deontay Wilder<br><br>πŸ—£οΈ Hearn said: "I truly believe Wilder/Fury is nailed on for 2023." [<a href="https://twitter.com/DAZNBoxing?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DAZNBoxing</a> Show]

Opposing Franklin would be the first step in that process.

The 29-year-old is the 10th-best heavyweight in ESPN's divisional rankings. The Michigan native is 21-1 with 14 knockouts over his professional career. His lone loss came to Dillian Whyte last November, and he looked good in the ring against ESPN's No. 7 heavyweight.

Joshua figures to be a big favorite over Franklin, but this isn't a fight when he'll be able to simply go through the motions and coast to a win. Franklin will pose a stiff challenge, giving the 33-year-old the kind of test he needs to round back into form.

Assuming Joshua clears that hurdle, he can move on to Whyte or another heavyweight higher up the ladder in a few months.