Last November, Saginaw, Michigan’s Jermaine Franklin found himself in the exact same spot he now finds himself in just days before this Saturday’s bout with former 3-belt world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Less than six months ago, he was brought in as a safe opponent for top contender Dillian Whyte. In the long tradition of boxing fall guys, Franklin had cultivated a very good record on paper (21-0), but had mostly fed on club fighters and faded journeymen in weak commission territories. He was expected to be little more than resume-filler for Whyte, who was looking to begin rebuilding after being stopped by Tyson Fury in a bid for the WBC heavyweight title just seven months prior.
As things would turn out, though, Franklin performed much better than expected and gave the favorite all he could handle. The majority decision loss that came could easily have been a points victory for the gutsy underdog.
Joshua is bringing Franklin back to the UK for the same reason as Whyte did– as a fall guy whose name value is greater than the perceived risk he brings. Franklin is now the guy who should’ve/could’ve beaten Dillian Whyte, but also, from Team Joshua’s perspective, the guy who lacked the power to close the show and kind of faded down the stretch in that fight.
Franklin seems to understand why he’s back in the UK, getting this opportunity against Joshua. He’s fine with it.
“I need people to understand this,” Franklin recently told the UK’s The Independent, “my whole career, I’ve always been put on the backburner. I’ve always been the underdog, I’ve always been looked as the guy who’s gonna lose once he gets to the top level. I’ve been fighting the odds my whole career. It doesn’t offend me, it just makes me want to prove people wrong.”
Not too far removed from the days when necessity required him to be a full-time factory worker and just a part-time fighter, Franklin claims to be even more fired up as someone who can now devote all of his attention to fighting.
“Now I am a full-time athlete again, so I am just working out, staying in the gym and staying ready,” he asserted.
“Every fight brings me closer to trying to be a world champion. I take them all as life-changing. I don’t take one kindly or softly. I look at them all as do-or-die.
“I always got the most confidence in myself,” Franklin added.
“That Dillian Whyte fight just pushed it a bit more and gave me more confidence than I already have. I am extremely confident in myself and my ability all the time.
“I just want to put myself at the top. I feel like the last fight pushed me up there and now it is time I claimed my stake up there with the top guys.”
As for what Anthony Joshua brings to this Saturday’s clash at the O2 Arena in London?
“I won’t say the hunger won’t be the same, I just think his losses probably messed with him a little bit,” Franklin said. “As fighters, we train to be the toughest people ever, so one little slip-up…it can mentally harm you.
“A lot of boxers don’t talk about [this] stuff, but there’s a lot mentally that comes behind a fight. I wouldn’t say he’s declining or nothing, but he could’ve went through something mentally that could’ve backfired on him in the fights. It’s all about feeling. I look at the world differently. If you tell the universe that you’re scared or have doubts, that can come to fruition; but if you tell the universe, ‘I’m gonna do it,’ then there’s a high possibility of that coming to fruition.”
The once-defeated big man bristles, though, when the “If Joshua loses, he needs to retire” talk starts floating around online.
“People are saying I’m a bum,” Franklin explains. “If you’re saying AJ loses to me and his career is over, you’re saying I’m not a guy who can beat AJ. That’s what the world is saying. The world is still sleeping on me.”
This Saturday, Jermaine Franklin is once again being brought into the UK as the B-side fall guy. And he aims to prove, once again, that he can shock and surprise the doubters.