Eddie Hearn says Joshua stepped back from being a hero to focus on next fight


Anthony Joshua is aiming to become a three-time world heavyweight champion

Anthony Joshua is aiming to become a three-time world heavyweight champion (Picture: Kevin Quigley/Daily Mail)

Eddie Hearn believes Anthony Joshua needs to show the ‘ruthless energy’ of his early days if he is to breathe new life into his career with victory over Jermaine Franklin this weekend and revive his dream of becoming three-time world heavyweight champion.

Hearn revealed the pressure of being a role model had been hampering Joshua for some years as he attempts to get things back on track after a run of three defeats in his last five fights.

Joshua’s promoter also blasted the ‘ego and greed’ he feels scuppered next month’s proposed clash for the undisputed crown between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, but it is Joshua dominating his thoughts.

The 33-year-old has based himself in Texas, under the radar and away from distractions, with new trainer Derrick James as he prepares to fight exclusively on DAZN for the first time. And Hearn says Joshua has been carrying the sport on his back for many years in the UK and that has taken a toll.

‘The life he ended up leading is not the life he expected or maybe he wanted in terms of the life you have to lead in that position,’ Hearn told Metro. ‘He can’t do normal things without going out and taking 100 photos and everyone filming you.

‘He’s just a normal guy who likes doing normal things. He likes playing football over the park, playing his PlayStation, going for a Nando’s, and because of his nature he can’t do it. He’s not going to turn down photos.

Promoter Eddie Hearn

Promoter Eddie Hearn: ‘Anthony is just a normal guy who likes doing normal things’ (Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA)

‘It’s been unbelievably draining over the years. America gives him a little bit of normality – he’s still very well-known but nowhere near as well-known as he is here. If he wants to, he can go to the mall, go for a coffee. I would think it’s a lifestyle he’ll enjoy. It comes with less aggravation, less pressure and less responsibility in that respect.’

The former two-time world champion spoke about money being his motivation for continuing after back-to-back defeats by Usyk which have left him with a 24-3 record. However, Hearn feels it is a sheer desire to knock opponents out which fuels his fighter ahead of facing the 21-1 Franklin this weekend.

Hearn said: ‘In a sport as dangerous as boxing you always want to get the maximum amount of money you can but I’ve seen over the years, time and time again, it’s not about the money for Anthony.

Jermaine Franklin throws a punch during his Matchroom Boxing heavyweight fight against Dillian Whyte (Picture: James Fearn/PPAUK/Shutterstock)

‘What he’s trying to do is distance himself a little bit from his role as ambassador and hero and just get down to business, knocking people out. He’s been very quiet in camp and has locked himself away with a small team in Texas.

‘It’s an extremely important fight in the story of his career so he wants to remove himself from the pressures of carrying the sport on his shoulders. Knocking people out for money was his mindset when he started on the professional journey and we want to see that same ruthless energy.’

But is Joshua aloof? He keeps an unusually low profile for a boxer, big commercial campaigns aside.

Hearn added: ‘He’s always given more than enough time, and more than he should, to the public. He’s engaging, he likes to talk, he’s very well-mannered and he is a role model, a great one. But sometimes cracks appear from pressure, as you saw in [losing to Usyk in] Saudi Arabia (when Joshua gave a bizarre post-fight speech in the ring), and he’s been under huge pressure for years and years. Now he just wants the opportunity to get on with his boxing and look after Anthony Joshua.’

Joshua keeps an unusually low profile for a boxer, big commercial campaigns aside (Picture: Joe Mitchinson)

The reality is Joshua is entering the final chapter, the last hurrah, and Hearn sees a road map of where the Watford man would like to head before the final bell goes.

Fighter and promoter have both spoken of Fury and his predecessor as WBC champ Deontay Wilder as potential next opponents, if Franklin is dispatched, and Hearn insists his man will take on anyone. ‘He’s always wanted the biggest fights. He’s never ducked a challenge in his entire career,’ he said.

‘There’s Fury, Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte, you might throw Joe Joyce in there. He’s wanted the Fury fight for a number of years. You will see him in those fights, I have no doubt. But I want to see him in the right place physically and mentally, and want to see him happy. There are “must-make” fights in the final chapter of his career and he might want more – five, six.’

But there is only one question the British public want answering – will Fury and Joshua ever fight? That blockbuster has fallen through twice but there is now talk of it happening this summer. Joshua has even said this week his rival ‘needs me to redeem himself from this circus’ after the Usyk unification bout, proposed for April 29 at Wembley, fell through.

Fight fans would love to see them face off soon, amid fears they are destined to go the way of Amir Khan and Kell Brook and meet too late in their careers, sadly past their prime.

Hearn replied: ‘Both guys are at their peak now, so this would be the time you’d want to see it. You don’t want a Khan-Brook scenario.’

But for now it is Michigan’s Franklin who stands in Joshua’s path. Hearn admits to nerves, given the battle the American gave Whyte in a split-decision defeat last November. This is must-win for the Briton. A third loss in a row is not a proposition in Hearn’s mind but he admitted: ‘AJ could have chosen a lot easier fight. This is a real fight and I’m nervous.’

WBC king Fury was for months preoccupied with trying to make that fight against WBO, WBA and IBF champ Usyk in London happen but that is off. A big-money clash in Saudi Arabia also bit the dust. Why has the big one not got over the line?

Tyson Fury (Picture: Francois Nel/Getty Images)

‘Greed, ego and also an understanding from Tyson Fury that it is a very, very difficult fight,’ said Hearn. ‘If it wasn’t, he takes 50-50 and becomes undisputed heavyweight world champion and makes tens of millions. He knows he can lose that fight, how good Usyk is, [he wanted] over £100million I’ve heard and it’s not there. He’s very good at making you think he’ll fight anyone – that he’ll fight you for free, the money’s not important, and now you’re seeing – and I don’t blame him for that necessarily – that it’s not really about legacy, it’s about money.’

Hearn has transformed Matchroom into a company he believes is now the leading boxing promoter in the United States, let alone just the UK.

But it is not always easy and he is a target for the boo-boys at fights in this country and faces continual resistance from American rivals.

A previous attempt at getting Joshua and Wilder together collapsed and Hearn admits to some regrets. ‘Wilder turned down a life-changing deal through bad advice but at the same time, I was very gung-ho, very outspoken,’ said the 43-year-old.

A Joshua v Fury blockbuster fight has fallen through twice (Picture: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)

‘Would I change anything? Yeah, maybe. I’m five years older, wiser. But it is an absolute priority for the US promoters to ensure I don’t get any momentum in America.’

It is the Conor Benn saga which has engulfed Hearn more recently – six months of continual questioning and speculation that followed his fighter’s two failed drugs tests. Hearn is keen to move on while Benn has made it clear he will do whatever he can to clear his name, as he prepares to box abroad – an Abu Dhabi clash with Chris Eubank Jr is on the cards for June 3 after their showdown was cancelled in October following Benn’s failed tests.

‘It’s a little tiring,’ admitted Hearn of another boxing soap opera. ‘I get dragged into things. You can’t turn your back on it. The Benn stuff is arduous. It’s been six months and [the questions] are still daily.’

Hearn wants to build bridges with the British Boxing Board of Control following the rift caused by the fallout from the situation involving Benn, who was cleared by the WBC of intentional doping.

‘My disappointment is the blame falling on Matchroom, when all we did was follow the advice of the governing body,’ said Hearn. ‘I want him to fight in the UK so we want to open up that line of communication.’

Hearn is clearly in boxing for the long term and hopes to see proof on Saturday Joshua’s race is not yet run.

‘He is digging his own grave’ – Anthony Joshua issues chilling warning to Jermaine Franklin and takes swipe at Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk

MORE : Anthony Joshua hesitant for son to follow in his footsteps as boxer as he considers other ‘opportunities’

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