Jermaine Franklin will fight Anthony Joshua as a leaner, lighter fighter having transformed his lifestyle since he last appeared in a ring.
It was in November when Franklin fought Dillian Whyte and was widely regarded to have been unfortunate to have dropped a majority decision, and before he had even started preparing for Joshua he had lost eight pounds.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, who also oversaw the fight with Whyte, has expressed concern about Franklin’s improved conditioning for a fight with the potential to revive or shatter Joshua’s career, regardless of the fact that it is for personal reasons that the American is in such different shape.
Franklin has stopped eating red meat and instead prioritised fruit, poultry, salmon and fresh juices, and explained: “I wanted to be in better health. We’ve got some stuff that runs in the family – diabetes; high blood pressure; heart disease – and I don’t want to be just another guy with the same problems, so I’ve been making healthy changes.
“At first I was craving beef like crazy, but now it really doesn’t bother me at all. I eat a lot of salads, salmon and chicken, and I started drinking juices. Now I get full so fast – it’s crazy.
“It’s hard to try to change your life around in the middle of a camp when you’re used to everything and you’re doing too much to your body at one time. I thought it would be better to do it while I wasn’t working out, and before I got back in the gym.
“I’m more in shape, faster, and can get around easier than I could before. It hasn’t changed my style, but it’s improved it.”
If Saturday’s fight at London’s O2 Arena – where he also fought Whyte – is the first outing for the transformed Franklin, it is also the first for Joshua under his new trainer Derrick James.
He improved significantly for the second of his defeats by Oleksandr Usyk, having replaced the long-serving Rob McCracken as his head coach with Robert Garcia, but under James he has prepared to fight Franklin in the relative privacy of Dallas.
Franklin admires James’ reputation – built most recently on his success with the Charlo twins and Errol Spence – but for all that he strongly disagrees with observers who believe Joshua’s career is finished after his encounters with Usyk, he also doubts how quickly Joshua and James can gel.
“Everybody says if ‘AJ’ loses to me his career’s over, but I don’t look at it that way,” said Franklin, at 29 four years Joshua’s junior. “That’s insulting to me as a fighter. I still look at him as if he’s a world champion and holding three belts.
“Boxing is the only sport where we write people off for a couple of losses. We don’t write a basketball team off when they’ve been in a slump, but in boxing, when you lose your throne – if you’re not at the top it’s like you’re at the bottom. He still has a chance to come back.
“Derrick James is a great coach – he’s got world champions – but it takes time for a healthy relationship to develop. I could teach you some things in a short amount of time, but I still don’t know you inside-out – your weaknesses, your strengths or your flaws. It’s good for your coaches to know that, because they know the right things to say to you. It’s a little deeper than the training aspect of the relationship you have with your trainer.