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Anthony Joshua will struggle to land world title shot if he loses to Jermaine Franklin, says Eddie Hearn

Anthony Joshua and Jermaine Franklin. Photo credit: Getty Images

Anthony Joshua 24-3 (22) could be done at the top level if he loses to Jermaine Franklin 21-1 (14) when they meet at the O2 Arena in London, England on April 1.

That is the opinion of the former two-time WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion’s promoter Eddie Hearn.

Brit Joshua, 33, is coming off back-to-back losses to former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk 20-0 (13). American Franklin, 29, dropped a majority decision to Dillian Whyte 29-3 (19) in his last outing in November.

The bout against fringe contender Franklin is largely seen as a rebuilding fight for Joshua, who will enter the ring with new trainer Derrick James in his corner.

“I think it’s a great fight,” Matchroom Boxing boss Hearn said to SecondsOut. “[Franklin] had a tremendous fight with Dillian Whyte, showed how good he is. Obviously, AJ is coming off two defeats, a lot of question marks for him. I feel like Franklin will be the guy to tell us where he’s at.

“I think it’s very difficult at world level and getting to fight for the world championship again. I see Franklin as a top 15 guy but if you’re gonna fight for the world title, you need to go through people like that. That’s really the pressure. I don’t think it’s a career-ender but in terms of positioning yourself for a world title, it will be difficult to come back from.”

Joshua knows the position he is in.

“When you’re searching for greatness, when you’re searching for better you’ve got to go outside of your comfort zone and go looking and searching,” Joshua said to Sky Sports.

“I ended up in Texas and Derrick James is a good coach amongst many other trainers out there. But in the small roster that I chose, I felt Derrick was a good fit for me.

“I’m looking at myself as a contender. When you have the belts and are champion, you have to fight a certain way. Because [you’re against] someone who’s coming to take what you have.

“There’s different mindsets to you trying to protect what you have. Now I haven’t got anything to protect so I’m going to come in with a different mindset so that’s what different about it.

“It’s a natural transition. Like the hunter and the hunted. I’m just on the different end of the spectrum now and I’ve just got to rebuild. Jermaine Franklin’s on that same end of the spectrum too, so it’ll be a good fight.”

Franklin knows that defeating Joshua will be like winning the lottery, opening the door to more lucrative fights and a potential world title tilt.

“I’m trying to knock AJ out. I know I’m probably not going to get no fair shake over here. That’s our mentality, kill. I don’t want to shit on nobody, but we’ve already kind of been through that. We kind of just got through that situation,” Franklin said to iFL TV.

“Honestly, because I won the last fight on points. The CompuBox numbers say I outpunched him in almost every round, by four rounds and they gave him the fight. I feel like I’m in a position where I have to knock him out or dominate the whole fight, extremely dominate the whole fight.

“I watched [the Whyte fight] probably like two, three times. I felt like I won. There was a lot of cheating going on in that damn fight. I was like, ‘Damn, I just need a bit of fairness.’ I kept getting clubbed, low-blows, headbutted, all types of shit. But as soon as I did something, the ref was on me.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, all I asked for was a fair shake.’ I know I ain’t gonna get a fair shake on everything but at least keep me protected in the ring. That was the biggest thing I took from it, besides that I thought I easily won the fight 7-5.”