Back-to-back defeats by Oleksandr Usyk has seen AJ, in his own words, go back to basics as he looks for the win he is desperately in need if he is to stay relevant in boxing’s glamour division.
Another loss here feels absolutely unthinkable for Joshua, who once again has his sights set on a lucrative all-British showdown with Tyson Fury this summer if he can get back on track against Franklin.
A number of other huge fights seem to remain viable possibilities for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, who remains adamant that he can yet become a three-time world champion - even if he’s apparently given up on the undisputed dream for now and admits he’s found it easier without the stress of belts.
Joshua left long-time trainer Rob McCracken after his initial dominant schooling by Usyk, before briefly working with Robert Garcia for the rematch in Saudi Arabia in which he gave an improved performance but comfortably lost on points again before also losing his cool with a bizarre and regrettable post-fight rant.
He split with Garcia after just one fight and is now back in the United States working in Dallas under the tutelage of Derrick James, a highly-rated coach who trains the likes of unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr and undisputed light-middleweight champion Jermell Charlo, among others.
Joshua will hope that a bulk up to his career-heaviest weight will pay dividends with an explosive and destructive performance against Franklin, an opponent who is certainly no pushover but should nevertheless be perfect for such a must-win comeback contest.
The American was 21-0 as a professional with 14 knockouts before losing his unbeaten record on his first visit to the UK in November, when he pushed a laboured Dillian Whyte hard before ultimately dropping a majority decision that many thought he deserved despite nearly being stopped in the final round.
Joshua was at ringside that night amid an expectation that Whyte could face him next in another high-profile grudge match, but instead it’s Franklin who gets the chance to cause a sizable upset in the capital and possibly push one of Britain’s finest into retirement.
Joshua vs Franklin date, start time, venue and ring walks
Joshua vs Franklin takes place tonight, Saturday April 1, 2023 at the O2 Arena in London, where ticket sales have been unusually slow by AJ’s usual standards. However, the fight has now sold out.
The early undercard on ‘Before the Bell’ starts at 3:40pm BST, with the main card kicking off at 7pm.
Ring walks for the main event have been pencilled in for the very specific time of 10:41pm.
As ever those timings are subject to change, depending on the length of the undercard bouts.
Joshua vs Franklin fight card/undercard in full
Another Britain vs America heavyweight scrap has co-main event status on Saturday, with British champion Fabio Wardley meeting Michael Coffie for the vacant WBA Continental belt.
The unbeaten Felix Cash was scheduled to fight Italy’s Matteo Signani for the European middleweight strap, but he has since pulled out with injury. Galal Yafai vs Moises Calleros has now been brought forward a week and will take place on Saturday night instead as a replacement.
Campbell Hatton takes a step up in his 11th pro fight and first eight-rounder, while unbeaten American middleweight Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams is also back in the UK.
Anthony Joshua vs Jermaine Franklin
Fabio Wardley vs Michael Coffie - WBA Continental heavyweight title fight
Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams vs River Wilson-Bent
Galal Yafai vs Moises Calleros
Campbell Hatton vs Louis Fielding
John Hedges vs Daniel Bocianski
Juergen Uldedaj vs Benoit Huber
Peter Kadiru vs Alen Lauriolle
Ziyad Almaayouf vs Georgi Velichkov
Jordan Flynn vs Kane Baker
How to watch Joshua vs Franklin
TV channel: In the UK, Joshua vs Franklin is being broadcast live tonight on sports streaming service DAZN - the Brit’s first non pay-per-view fight for some eight years.
Subscriptions to DAZN start from £9.99 per month in the UK, with a TV channel now available on Sky.
Live stream: Those with a subscription to DAZN can also stream the bout live online via their website and app.
LIVE coverage: You won’t miss a beat on fight night with Standard Sport’s dedicated live blog.
Joshua vs Franklin fight prediction
This is absolutely must-win territory for Joshua, who has suggested that he could even retire if he suffers a shocking third successive loss and fourth in his last six fights tonight.
Fortunately for him, Franklin is an opponent infinitely more suited to his preferred style than the ultra-slick Usyk.
Whereas he could not really get close to the fleet-footed and highly-skilled Ukrainian thanks to the latter’s dream footwork, movement and mastery of the angles, Franklin is a vastly more hittable target.
Alhough a dangerous customer when standing and trading big punches in the middle of the ring, the ‘989 Assassin‘ is very limited in terms of his other fundamentals and surely won’t have the speed to get away from the much taller Joshua’s sustained and powerful attacks, despite shedding the pounds since his defeat by Whyte in a bid to become more nimble and lighter on his feet.
AJ needs a statement here, pressuring and letting the huge shots fly from the off. And we think he’s primed to do just that with a big weight jump, to secure an impressive and brutal knockout in the first half of the fight.
Joshua to win by knockout in round five.
Joshua vs Franklin weigh-in results
Joshua tipped the scales at a career-heaviest 255.4lbs on Friday - 11lbs heavier than he was for the second Usyk fight in August.
His previous highest was 254lbs for a victory over late replacement opponent Carlos Takam in Cardiff back in 2017.
Franklin, meanwhile, weighed in at 234.1lbs - some 23lbs lighter than for his meeting with Whyte back in November.
Joshua vs Franklin betting odds
Joshua to win: 1/14
Franklin to win: 15/2
Joshua to win by knockout or TKO: 1/4
Joshua to win on points or by decision: 9/2
Franklin to win by knockout or TKO: 13/1
Franklin to win on points or by decision: 14/1
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).