Boxing

Joshua delivers promising reply to Whyte ‘frontrunner’ comment

Emotional Anthony Joshua explains erratic behaviour after defeat

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Anthony Joshua has replied to Eddie Hearn’s suggestion that the winner of Dillian Whyte vs Jermaine Franklin will be the ‘frontrunner’ for his return to the ring next year. The Watford powerhouse said that he would ‘one hundred per cent’ fight Whyte again after their enthralling domestic clash back in 2015.

On that night, Joshua stopped Whyte in the seventh round but was hurt for the first time in his professional career when ‘The Body Snatcher’ unleashed a vicious left hook that scrambled AJ’s senses. Since then, both men have gone on to establish themselves as world-level professionals and there is a definite appetite for a second showdown.

Whyte faces Franklin on November 26 at the OVO Wembley Arena and according to Hearn, this could be a very important fight in determining Joshua’s next move. While out in Dubai promoting Dmitry Bivol vs Gilberto Ramirez, Hearn met up with Joshua to discuss his potential fight options.

“I couldn’t say a fight to AJ that he doesn’t [accept]…He just wants to fight everybody,” Hearn told assembled media.

“It’s just a case of whether he has an easier fight before he goes into a Deontay Wilder or a Dillian Whyte basically. I think Otto Wallin’s a very fair fight for AJ to come back to.

“Filip Hrgovic is a great fight, he’s IBF mandatory. I think the winner of Dillian Whyte vs Jermaine Franklin is a very, very good frontrunner for his next fight.”

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In response to Hearn’s comments, Joshua told iFL TV: “You know what it is? It is best that you do speak to me because I can say it from the horse’s mouth. It could be, but don’t hold me to the cross the things I say.

“The game’s forever changing. It’s also whatever Dillian wants to do as well. Would I fight Dillian again? Yes, 100%.”

Joshua is expected to return to action in early 2023 following consecutive decision defeats to unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. If Joshua chooses to face the winner of Whyte and Franklin then March or April is understood to be the targeted time frame.

An earlier date may also be explored with Filip Hrgovic, Otto Wallin, or Zhang Zhilei. Providing all goes well in AJ’s next couple of fights, Hearn has hinted at making the long-awaited showdown with Deontay Wilder for the back end of the year.

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