By Adam Baskin: Anthon Joshua says he’s not overjoyed that he’s fighting at the O2 Arena in London rather than Wembley Stadium for his fight with Jermaine Franklin on April 1st.
Joshua would be fighting a more popular opponent if he hadn’t lost his last two fights against Oleksandr Usyk, but it’s too risky for him to be matched against someone that fans would want to see in high numbers.
Unfortunately, for Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) to fight at the 95,000-seat Wembley Stadium, he needs to fight a big name like Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury because Franklin (21-1, 14 KOs) isn’t a household name in the UK, and the British fans view him as a tune-up-level opponent.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is planning on matching him against Dillian Whyte next in a stadium fight in London.
Hopefully, Hearn doesn’t book Wembley Stadium because if he mistakenly believes that the fight will sell out that venue, he could be disappointed. Whyte’s stock has dropped since his loss to Tyson Fury last year in April.
Those two filled up Wembley Stadium, but that was because many boxing fans felt at the time that Whyte had a chance of winning.
They either hadn’t watched Whyte’s knockout loss to 40-year-old Alexander Povetkin, or they believed it was just a fluke thing that wouldn’t happen again.
As it turns out, Whyte was every bit as bad as he was in that fight, and now the fans have caught on, and they won’t want to pay to see Joshua beat up on the faded fighter.
Joshua prefers Wembley Stadium
“Not really. I much prefer Wembley Stadium,” said Anthony Joshua to Boxing Social when asked if he’s happy returning to the 20,000-seat O2 Arena in London.
Joshua probably won’t fight in July at Wembley Stadium because Hearn has got to know that Whyte isn’t good enough to attract enough fans to sill that venue.
What’s further going to hurt the chances of Joshua bringing in a large crowd for his summer fight is that Whyte is likely going to sit and wait for the fight rather than taking a stay-busy match.
He’s not going to want to take the chance of fighting and potentially getting beat because his confidence is likely shot after his last two performances.
In other words, Whyte will sit and wait for his payday against Joshua for the next five months. It’s similar to what Ryan Garcia is doing by not taking a tune-up to get ready for an April fight with Gervonta Davis. If Ryan had confidence, he’d take a tune-up, but he doesn’t, so he’ll wait for his cash out.
“I know he was a gold medalist from the [2012 Olympics,” said Teddy Atlas on The Fight, talking about Anthony Joshua. “I called his fight in London against the Italian [Roberto Cammarelle]. He lost, but there was no way he wasn’t going to get the gold medalist with the Olympics being in London. He lost, but he got it.
“Joshua is one of the darlings across the pond. He’s with the power. He’s with Eddie Hearn. You know what? They’re going to give him what he wants because he’s going to fill a stadium, and they’re going to do it with as little risk as possible.
“They’re going to do it with someone that can sell it. Franklin made a good performance across the pound against Whyte, so people know him now. Franklin is a game kid. They know he hurt Whyte. They know he survived the last round, and he showed heart. He’ll make a showing of himself, and who knows against Joshua,” said Atlas.
Franklin can win
“Joshua doesn’t exactly have a granite chin or granite confidence right now after losing his last two to Usyk, so you never know,” Atlas continued. “You know that Franklin’s confidence is only going to grow after his last outing when he stepped up, and he found out, ‘I can step up. I can step up in the high altitudes in boxing, and I can be okay. That’s important for a fighter to find out.
“They have that going for them. Is that a fight that I would mark off on my calendar? No. Even if I lived across the pond, I wouldn’t mark it off because I’m not interested in backing a guy that’s lost his last two.
“People are going to say, ‘Teddy, you’re knocking Joshua.’ No, I’m pointing things out. I give him credit. He’s in a difficult sport, he became world champion, and he made millions and millions and millions of dollars. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to point out that he’s been taken care of better than 90% of the fighters will ever be taken care of,” said Teddy.
Joshua is protected
“He’s also protected; he’s also favored in a way where a lot of fighters wouldn’t be given this fight against this guy [Franklin] on this platform [DAZN] to make another twenty million dollars or whatever he’s going to bring. it’s probably somewhere in that neighborhood,” said Atlas about Joshua being given special treatment.
“They’re going to fill out any stadium that they put him in because that’s what the English do. They come out, and they support them. If I come back in another lifetime, I want to come back as a heavyweight from London. I better change my name, though, because the English fans will remember this, and they’ll say, ‘Oh no, you weren’t nice to our bloke, Mr. Joshua. You weren’t nice to Joshua.’
“Hey, yes, I am. I just told you I respect him. I respect that he gets inside that chamber of truth, one of the most difficult things to do in the world. I point out that he’s treated much better than most fighters and given privileges that most fighters would never be given if he wasn’t in the positions he’s in over there.
“He makes money. Of course, they’re going to do it. Eddie Hearn is smart. He’s doing a hell of a job over there, and he’s going to make more money with him, and he should. They built this thing up, they natured it, and now they’re getting the dividends from it.
“I’ll be damned if I say that I’m going to sit around and watch Joshua against Franklin, even with some crumpets to enjoy with a spot of tea,” said Atlas.