Anthony Joshua agrees next fight and will make his return on 1 April

Anthony Joshua will make his return to the ring against Jermaine Franklin on 1 April at the O2 Arena.

The former heavyweight champion is coming off back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk, falling short in their August rematch having lost the titles to the undefeated Ukrainian in September 2021.

His return is now looming large with Franklin set to be his first test under new trainer Derrick James, according to the Mail.

Franklin came to London just last November to take on Dillian Whyte, giving the Brixton heavyweight a stern examination before falling to a majority decision defeat, with one ringside judge scoring the fight a draw.

A furious Franklin was adamant he had done enough to win the fight. ‘I felt like I got robbed. I felt like I did enough to get the decision,’ he said after the bout. ‘I felt like I won the earlier rounds. I just felt like I got robbed on the decision.’

Franklin has previously won all 21 of his professional fights, knocking out 14 of his opponents.  

He will take on a fighter desperate to get back to winning ways in Joshua, who has now lost three of his last five fights dating back to his shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in the summer of 2019.

Recent losses have temporarily removed Joshua from the world title picture, with WBC champion Tyson Fury and IBF, WBO and WBA king Usyk set to meet in March or April to crown the heavyweight division’s first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis.

But Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is still confident of delivering huge fights in 2023 with a rematch with Whyte slated for the summer.

Joshua and Whyte shared a blistering rivalry in 2015 which culminated in a seventh round knockout win for the Olympian.

A long-awaited meeting with Deontay Wilder could follow in the second half of 2023 with tentative talks between the two camps already underway.

‘We have got a plan, this guy has got so much more to give to the heavyweight division, but this is also an important moment that we must get right,’ Hearn said in January. ‘Those lines of communication are open with Deontay Wilder.

‘We know it is a huge fight, massive numbers. I truly believe Wilder or Fury are nailed on for 2023 because AJ isn’t interested in three or four nothing fights. He will listen to his trainer but he wants to be in the biggest fights possible.’

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