Anthony Joshua should ‘jack it in’ and retire if he suffers a shock loss to Jermain Franklin on Saturday night, according to pundit Johnny Nelson.
Joshua is looking to rebuild himself after back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk, the last of which came in a split decision defeat in Saudi Arabia last summer, with Franklin standing in his way at the O2 Arena this weekend.
But AJ faces huge pressure to get back to winning ways after his credentials were questioned in his damaging defeats to the Ukrainian, who wrested his three heavyweight titles from him.
Another defeat to Franklin – the American who narrowly lost to Dillian Whyte in November – is unthinkable, and Nelson cannot see a way back for Joshua if the worst happens, saying he would face ‘a hard mountain to climb’.
‘If Anthony Joshua loses, he jacks it in,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘If he doesn’t jack it, he should jack it. Because it’s a hard mountain to climb.
Anthony Joshua (L) should retire if he loses to Jermain Franklin, says Johnny Nelson (R)
Joshua is gearing up for a make-or-break outing against Franklin (R) on Saturday
‘Especially when you’ve had the success and the heights that he’s had. So he can’t afford to lose. That’s a must. Then from that, it’s confidence building.
‘My big question is this: Anthony Joshua, after losing two fights on the bounce, has he had to relook at his confidence to think “who am I, do I belong here, do I want this?” For Anthony Joshua that’s everything.
‘Because he’s had to go through a bit of turmoil, mentally, emotionally and come to terms with the fact that he’s no longer the best fighter, officially, in the world. He’s got to get in the queue again like everybody else.’
Nelson says he expects Joshua to see off Franklin, but concedes it will not be an easy fight by any stretch after winning 21 of his 22 fights – with 14 coming by knockout. His sole loss came against Whyte and some have suggested he was unlucky to lose on a majority decision.
Expectations are high for Joshua – who reigned as heavyweight champion between 2016 and 2021 and captured new audiences and boxing fans with his explosive fighting style, seen in a memorable win over Wladimir Klitschko in 2017.
Joshua faces a huge task to reclaim his titles after two successive losses to Oleksandr Usyk
Fans have been pining to see an all-British showdown between himself and Tyson Fury – which has twice come close to materialising in the last two years before negotiations were scrapped at the last minute.
Nelson says Joshua should focus on what he is fighting for first before worrying about taking on Fury or Usyk again, with the mental block of knowing there is an opponent who has had his number on two occasions.
‘We’ll see if he really thinks “you know what, I can eventually become world champion again, I’ll fix what I got wrong”. Because he’s only been boxing 10, 11 years as a professional fighter.
‘So if he thinks he can fix what he think he got wrong in regards to why he’s not world champion, then there’s a reason to stick around still chase the guys that are there, one of them has beaten him twice.’
Joshua this week hinted he could retire if he was able to reach the summit of boxing once again, calling the sport ‘a young man’s game’.
‘This run is like, what can it go on for? Three, four years?
Joshua reached the top of the mountain as he reigned for five years as world champion and Nelson has questioned whether his hunger is still there
‘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.’
Speaking ahead of his fight against Franklin, Joshua said he believed it was possible to become a three-time world champion ‘in the next 16 months’.
‘We move forward,’ he added. ‘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.’
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