Anthony Joshua hints he could RETIRE if he reaches boxing’s summit again, with his sole focus on winning a world title in ‘the next 16 months’… as British heavyweight star insists he no longer cares about impressing ex-fighters
- Joshua begins his route back to the top of the heavyweight division this weekend
- The two-time former champion takes on Jermaine Franklin at the O2 on Saturday
- Ahead of his comeback, AJ has outlined his 16-month plan to reclaim a world title
Anthony Joshua has set his sights on becoming world heavyweight champion again ‘within the next 16 months’ ahead of his make-or-break outing against Jermaine Franklin this weekend.
Joshua is set to face Franklin at the O2 Arena on Saturday night in his first bout since last year’s rematch defeat at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk, who comfortably relieved him of his unified titles in September 2021 before retaining them 11 months later.
After slumping to consecutive losses for the first time in his career, many doubted whether a demoralised AJ would be prepared to go back to the drawing board and plot a return to the top of the division.
Yet, on Saturday night he begins that long and challenging route back to the heavyweight summit after brushing off talk of retirement, and heading into this new chapter Joshua has reassessed his own personal desires.
‘It’s been a great run,’ he said on his previous reign as champion. ‘The thing is, I do and I did want respect from people in the industry that I admire, ex-legends in the game and when you’re not a champion any more you feel like that goes away.
Anthony Joshua has outlined his 16-month plan to become world heavyweight champion again
Joshua is gearing up for a make-or-break outing against Jermaine Franklin (R) on Saturday
His sole focus heading into the bout is on reaching the top of the division again by next August
‘So, that was definitely something I was yearning for, is the respect from ex-champions and when I’d lost it, it was like “f*** I’ve lost that invincibility”, but it’s all good.
‘We move forward. I’m not really doing it for that purpose any more because I’m not in that position, but the desire? One is definitely to become champion, which I think is possible within the next 16 months.
‘I think we’ve got to see what happens this year with the belts. Let them be competed for and then potentially let them go up in the air and then we’ll see where the belts land. Then just stay consistent, stay focused on improving for these next 12 to 16 months while I’m in title contention.’
As things stand, Usyk still holds three of the four recognised heavyweight titles, with Tyson Fury in possession of the WBC title.
After Usyk and Fury failed to reach an agreement for a proposed undisputed contest in April, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn told Sportsmail last week that should his man see off Franklin this weekend, he is ready to reignite talks with the Gypsy King five months after negotiations for an all-British blockbuster last fell through.
And even if those talks hit another snag, Joshua could perhaps wait for Usyk’s three belts to fragment before pursuing one of them towards the end of the year.
Joshua suffered consecutive defeats against Oleksandr Usyk (L) in his last two fights
Another world-title win is certainly not out of the question, and AJ admits he could walk away from the sport altogether if he reaches the top again.
Speaking about his aim to become a three-time champion, the 33-year-old said: ‘This run is like, what can it go on for? Three, four years?
‘If I was going to do another run after this, you’re talking about fighting into my forties and I truly believe that boxing’s a young man’s sport.
‘It takes a real solid character like Bernard Hopkins, (George) Foreman, Klitschko, Povetkin to go on into their forties and stuff, but I think this is a run I want to make successful and then, you know, hopefully go out on top.’
If he does become champion again, the Brit has hinted that he could walk away from the sport
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