Anthony Joshua revealed his ongoing commitment to his future as a fighter as he prepared for the showdown with Jermaine Franklin that could leave him with nowhere to turn.
For the first time in seven years the 33-year-old fights without being able to win or defend a world title, and at London’s O2 Arena, a venue that had previously been too small to accommodate one of British sport’s biggest names.
Despite successive defeats by Oleksandr Usyk he also remains one of the world’s highest-profile and most marketable fighters, but the build-up to him fighting America’s Franklin, 29, has involved consistent suggestions that he lacks desire, is nearing the end of his career, will be forced to retire if he loses and, as a consequence of his own admission, is interested in only financial rewards.
Whether or not Joshua believes that himself is another matter, but his willingness to relocate to Dallas to work under a new trainer in Derrick James gives the impression of a fighter interested in more than simply money – particularly one sufficiently financially secure he need never fight again – and one who also spoke of the pain of losing and, despite the most decorated of careers, of his need to improve.
“You can start listening to everyone else and you start losing trust in your own self,” said the heavyweight, who at 255.4lbs on Friday outweighed Franklin by 21lbs. “That’s why I don’t value or put pressure on myself from outside conversations, family pressure, boxing pressure – it becomes too much. It can actually hinder you from progressing so I’m just going to go out there and do it for me. No entertaining for anyone; none of that. I’m just going to have fun.
The intention of training under James and alongside Errol Spence and the Charlos was to improve some of the limitations Joshua demonstrated even when impressing in his rematch with Usyk. The first of his defeats by the Ukrainian also owed to a lack of focus, and regardless of the relatively short time James has had to polish his new fighter’s technique, Joshua spoke of why he found life in Dallas easier than in London, and of the discovery of a new mental edge.
“We are so connected now it’s hard to get disconnected from a lot of things,” he said. “When you’re searching for certain answers you can actually listen to yourself a bit more when you’re disconnected. Being a bit further away from the distractions and the hustle and bustle and small distractions. Being further away has been better. Being home is harder.
“Asking myself all these questions is how I found myself in Texas, so what I found is even through failure, let’s say failure – it’s not failure because I got to a certain level but I plateaued there – and I now realise that if I want to achieve again I’ve got to go to another level, and I’ve just found out that what I thought was good enough wasn’t, and sacrifice is not a bad thing because throughout this struggle I’ve had to take myself through I’ve actually found potentially better than what I had before.”