… Wins by unanimous decision
The two-time champion beat Franklin by unanimous decision with the judges’ scorecards reading 118-111, 117-111, 117-111.
The British-Nigerian won the fight with his uppercuts landing the most damage as Franklin took all Joshua’s hit boldly refusing to fall.
ROUND TWELVE: Joshua solid till the end
It’s Franklin who came out fighting first. He landed a series of body shots and pushed Joshua back.
Joshua went for the uppercut to take Franklin out but the American ducked and grabbed the 33-year-old to prevent getting hit.
Things also got heated between the two with AJ and Franklin squaring up to each other in the ring. The ref was forced to push them apart.
Joshua landed another deadly uppercut to wobble the American. He followed it up with a right hand before in with his left. Franklin grabbed Joshua to prevent getting hurt further.
The bell goes with seven seconds left and it’s ALL KICKING OFF!!
That’s it, the final bell sounds, Franklin survived and doesn’t get knocked out!
ROUND ELEVEN: Joshua loses one round
Joshua catches Franklin with an uppercut but Franklin fires straight back. Franklin’s uppercut wobbles Joshua – who grabs onto the American immediately afterwards.
The pair continue to exchange blows in the middle of the ring. Joshua lands two jabs in quick succession but it wasn’t enough to put Franklin down.
Joshua now pushing forward and trying to release his arms, the uppercut lands and then a big right.
Massive straight right from Franklin and Joshua loses this round.
109-100 to Joshua
ROUND TEN: Right hook from Joshua
Joshua lands a good right hook and followed it up with a left while pinning Franklin on the ropes. However, Franklin took it well and pushed Joshua back.
Joshua does well to keep Franklin at distance when the American tried to lunge in and land a backhand.
Joshua went on to land an unbelievable uppercut. The pair continue to exchange blows – with Joshua’s shorts covered in blood.
ROUND NINE: Joshua stunned
Joshua lands a lovely jab before following it up with a body shot early in the ninth.
Joshua gets the crowd excited once again with a fantastic right hand before unleashing a series of body shots.
However, Franklin responded with a lethal right hand that stunned Joshua.
ROUND EIGHT: Joshua hits uppercuts
Joshua’s footwork was a little more static during the eighth round but that didn’t stop him from catching Franklin early on and exciting the crowd.
Joshua was also seen getting frustrated as Franklin continued to hold onto him and rest when he could.
Both men get a talking to after coming together.
A series of uppercuts come in the final 10 seconds from Joshua to halt any Franklin momentum.
ROUND SEVEN: Joshua in good lead
Joshua looks more energetic in this round. He is operating on different levels and landing some good right hands while Franklin looks to jab at Joshua’s body.
Now a big right from Joshua lands, the crowd go wild.
Both men get a talking to after coming together.
Joshua looks confident in the corner, at peace with his work. Bellew gives all seven rounds to Joshua
ROUND SIX: Joshua lands uppercut
Some seriously good speed from Franklin in defense. However, Joshua was able to throw a series of body shots while they were clinching.
Joshua back to the jab, it’s brutal how it bounces off Franklin’s skull.
But that right slips in from Franklin, he’s dangerous, the distance wasn’t measured accurately so Joshua absorbs the punishment well enough.
There’s the uppercut! It’s Joshua’s most memorable shot from his fine career and Franklin was rocked there.
Both men trade at the bell and Joshua grins after partially blocking the Franklin attack.
He’s up here, but he can’t relax.
ROUND FIVE: Joshua bleeding heavily
Joshua opens the round by landing a strong left hook. He followed it up with a series of body shots but Franklin did well to turn him. The American almost caught the British-Nigerian with what could have been a knockout upper cut.
Both fighters are much more aggressive in this round. Joshua looks quick and powerful but he hasn’t made that killer connection yet.
Joshua did manage to land a powerful left backhand that stunned Franklin. The American didn’t stumble but he looked like he felt it more than any other shot.
Joshua more restrained with the left hook perhaps now as Franklin’s movement get more sudden. He looks at ease in there, a huge stage.
Joshua’s nose now pouring with blood, his corner get to work.
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?
10-9 again to Joshua
ROUND FOUR: Joshua lands jab on American’s face
Joshua goes for a slightly higher guard during the fourth round. He’s baiting Franklin to go for the body instead of the head after taking a few knocks in the last round.
Joshua lands a lovely right jab direct on Franklin’s face. He follows it up with another just seconds later… but the American doesn’t appear to be phased.
The British-Nigerian grapples with Franklin and puts him in the headlock.
Joshua lands another sharp jab, stunning Franklin and forcing him to unravel a little in retaliation.
The score reads 10-9, 10-9, 10-9, 10-9, all in favour of Joshua
ROUND THREE: Franklin lands hits on former champ
Strong left jab from Franklin to open the round. He followed it up with a dangerous right to see Joshua run around the ring to get away.
Some big swings were thrown. Franklin does not want this to go to point as he goes aggressive looking for the knockout and he’s catching Joshua.
Joshua tried to keep his distance from Franklin but the American did well to change his height up and step in closer to the British-Nigerian landing body hits to win points.
Joshua manages to land a strong right hook just before the bell landed.
ROUND TWO: Joshua bleeds
Joshua is now building momentum and this is lovely boxing.
The jab is coming back fast and then stunning upstairs and downstairs. Franklin missing mostly but he catches Joshua once on the nose.
Now the big overhand right from Joshua, but Franklin slips inside the eye of the storm, but Joshua is happy to adjust the plan, revealing the signature uppercut for the first time.
James screaming for Joshua to stop jabbing.
Joshua is stepping in to jab Franklin and retreating well. He caught Franklin well with 1.23 seconds left on the clock. Franklin took it well but it definitely rocked him.
Joshua’s nose is bleeding now where Franklin hit him earlier in the round.
ROUND ONE: Joshua on front foot!
Joshua throws the first punch of the round but maintains patience and holds the centre of the ring. Franklin tried to land a right hook but fails to catch AJ.
Franklin is quicker than he was against Whyte and he’s dodging Joshua’s jabs well. But a patient Joshua bids his time and appears to have a lot of power behind his punches.
Franklin fought behind a very high guard against Whyte but has dropped his hands much lower against AJ. He’s protecting his body much more compared to November 2022.
A sense of jeopardy, the tension is real, less chants now as Franklin bounces, squatting low and looking to project dangerous counters.
Joshua even absorbs a short left, a reminder that he cannot walk through his opponent. But that’s a bright and confident start for the former champion.
Joshua makes ring return against Franklin
Anthony Joshua is keen to get back to winning ways in London tonight. The British-Nigerian last achieved a win in 2020 and has since suffered back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.
The Ukrainian took the unified heavyweight titles from Joshua with a decision win in 2021 before retaining the belts with another points victory over Joshua last August, leaving the former Olympic champion to switch trainers in pursuit of a better performance with Derrick James the chosen man in the 33-year-old’s corner tonight.
Meanwhile, American Franklin enters the O2 Arena on the back of a controversial loss to Dillian Whyte – the first defeat of the 29-year-old’s career. Franklin suffered a majority-decision loss to Whyte in the English capital in November, when the winner was set to be rewarded with a fight against Joshua. Despite his defeat, and with many believing he had done enough to win, Franklin was paired with Joshua anyway.
Every Anthony Joshua fan here wants; and many expect a knockout victory for the British-Nigerian tonight.
And so it begins… all you can hear inside the O2 is the crowd singing ‘oh Anthony Joshua’.