Until the ugly brawl which broke out after the final bell rang six seconds early it was as processional as May 6 will be for King Charles through the streets of London.
Whether it will march on to a coronation for Anthony Joshua remains to be seen but with a clinical display of orthodox boxing he turned back the swelling wave of questions about his future.
It was not the knock-out statement which the O2 craved for AJ to deliver. In truth the punches he and Jermaine Franklin threw after the premature termination of round 12 and the ensuing scuffle which spilled into ringside roused the loudest roars of the night.
But by remaining true to his promise to go back basics Joshua has come back into world heavyweight championship contention and hopefully en route to that forever awaited Big Brit Bash with Tyson Fury.
It was Jabberwocky night on the Greenwich Peninsula. AJ’s piston of a left lead dominated proceedings and the insertion of his so-often concussive right hand gave him a 12-nil score, in rounds, for me. For the record two of the three judges scored it 118-111 for Joshua, the other 117-111 in his favour.
Anthony Joshua defeated Jermaine Franklin on Saturday night to secure a first win since 2020
It was far from a vintage performance but AJ did win the fight with relative ease
So portentously had he been warned that defeat could spell retirement that he took few chances against an American whose capacity for taking the heavy blows when they came surpassed his boxing ability.
Sometimes, though, what matters is getting the jab done and by going back to basics as his new trainer had promised he did exactly that.
The New Dawn, as he called this comeback from the Usyk disasters came up softly but it has shed light on the next and last stage of his stellar career.
Before Joshua could set about redeeming his legacy, British boxing paid tribute to Scotland’s greatest exponent of the Noble Art.
Ken Buchanan passed away earlier in the day, sleeping peacefully at 77, a year after he was diagnosed with dementia.
The ringside bell at the O2 chimed ten times for the Edinburgh legend who claimed the undisputed world lightweight title with epic victories over outstanding champions on the other side of the Atlantic.
The applause which rang around the arena echoed back to an era when it wasn’t necessary to win every fight to be recognised as great. Buchanan the master craftsman sustained eight defeats in his distinguished career.
Joshua was coming to the ring after just three losses – albeit all in his last five fights – having bulked up to his heaviest ever. So clearly hoping to barnstorm the American in his sights.
There is more than one to skin the Hall of Fame cat. Having lost his way in trying to polish skills with which he hoped, in vain, to outbox Oleksandr Usyk over the two defeats which left him bereft of his world titles, AJ promised to be back to his power punching basics. Back also in the venue which he used to call his Lion’s Den when blasting his way to his first world title in only his 16th fight.
Franklin showed off an impressive chin by lasting the full 12 rounds but did not offer much threat
Joshua called out world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury as soon as the fight was over
In this, his 28th, he found himself under question as to whether he would feel a need to quit if he lost.
Whether or not some seats were comped, the 02 was filled enough to generate a roaring atmosphere.
Presumably by his hard-core London fan base, perhaps supplemented by curiosity shoppers wondering if this really would be the last chance to see in action the neighbour who won Olympic gold for Britain on the opposite bank of the Thames a decade or so ago.
Franklin preceded him into the ring and looked neither anxious nor irritated by the wait for Joshua to arrive and the rigmarole of ring announcements to be completed.
JEFF POWELL’S SCORECARD FROM RINGSIDE
Round 1: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 2: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 3: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 4: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 5: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 6: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 7: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 8: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 9: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 10: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 11: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Round 12: Joshua 10-9 Franklin
Total: Joshua 120-108 Franklin
AJ was equally composed. Even though he was coming to this watershed in his life.
True to his back-to-basics script Joshua opened with a succession of ramrod left jabs which Franklin mostly ate.
Franklin, a renowned in-fight trash talker, was scolded for poking his tongue at Joshua when hit by a heavy right. AJ said nothing and banged him with another.
Franklin began coming to life in the third but Joshua landed of those jabs, along with a couple of rights, to extend his early lead.
AJ was picking his shots with such clinical accuracy that Frankln’s rushes came to little, until he landed a lefts and rights combo in the closing seconds of the fourth.
Franklin seemed impervious to big rights which had felled so many opponents on his way to glory – but how long could he keep taking them?
More of the piston left from AJ in the sixth. More Light Brigade charges from Franklin.
Franklin snapped back again when clattered, this time verbally. But he could little to stop the flow of punches, nor the trickle of his blood onto Joshua’s white shorts.
Joshua was warned for punching after the bell in the eighth. But it looked more like a consoling pat for his out-classed opponent.
The fight was marred by ugly scenes as a brawl broke out after the 12th round bell
On – and on – we went. Interrupted only by the occasional right getting through to the Joshua jaw to mildly alarm the crowd.
All that seemed left was a test of Joshua’s stamina. His first answer was to go for the finish with a flourish but not even increased punishment could buckle Franklin.
Joshua went for the KO again but as stopped short by shuddering right from the American. Then another.
Joshua was one round from shut out. Could he give the fans the finish they wanted? Not quite. Despite throwing in some uppercuts. And not even though they carried on throwing punches after a seemingly six-seconds-early final bell.
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