Ahead of Jermaine Franklin comeback
Joe Joyce claims Anthony Joshua turned down a fight with Zhilei Zhang
Anthony Joshua returns to action on April 1 when he goes to war with Jermaine Franklin at the O2 Arena, Ryan Taylor reports for the UK Express.
Anthony Joshua has been accused of ‘turning down’ a heavyweight showdown with Zhilei Zhang by Joe Joyce as he prepares to return to action against Jermaine Franklin. It comes just months after the two-time world champion was called out by Joseph Parker for refusing to respond to a rematch offer with the Kiwi following his second successive defeat to Oleksandr Usyk.
Joshua is now aiming to take care of business against Franklin in London before moving onto a potential rematch with long-term rival Dillian Whyte seven years on from their iconic British title clash in December 2015.
Joyce, who makes no secret of the fact he does not like AJ, has now declared Joshua turned down a fight with his next opponent Zhang – suggesting he is an opponent rivals wish to avoid.
When asked if he’d heard anything about talks over the prospect of Joshua facing Zhang, Joyce told iFL: “Apparently he turned it down. So, take from that what you will.”
In December, Joshua’s former opponent Parker claimed his team reached out to Eddie Hearn to see if the Matchroom fighter had any interest in a rematch following their 2018 bout in Cardiff.
But to the surprise of the New Zealander, he did not even receive a response as Hearn was instead prioritizing
the matchup with Franklin.
The Matchroom Boxing chief has frequently discussed the prospect of matching Joshua against Zhang, even indicating the fight could head to the Far East to Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium.
It’s a proposition he is yet to fully explore as Joshua is now prioritizing getting back to winning ways over boosting his profile across the globe, something that was previously on the agenda.
Zhang knows Joshua from his Olympic days and in 2021, he challenged his fellow medalist to a fight in China.
The 39-year-old told FightMag: “I would love to fight AJ in China because of our amateur backgrounds.
“The venue is there, the Bird’s Nest holds 100,000, so we have it all.
“Beijing and Shanghai are the biggest cities, very economically developed and boxing in China is growing.
“The sports fans there like boxing, they like AJ, so if we can make it happen it would be huge for boxing.”
Joshua’s stock has somewhat fallen following three career defeats in the space of just over three years and there is a sense the super-fights could now elude him.
Tyson Fury and Usyk are set to clash at Wembley in late April for the undisputed heavyweight world title before some of the belts could be freed up by governing bodies.
f Joshua positions himself well, there is a chance he could be summoned to fight for one of those titles as he remains highly ranked with the WBA, WBO and IBF.
There are still thousands of tickets available for Joshua’s April 1 showdown with Franklin at the O2 Arena, a venue he frequently used to sell out.
Prices have been slashed in recent days to try and fill the 14,000-capacity arena and DAZN have since announced that the fight will be aired on their brand new Sky channel – meaning fans may feel inclined to stay at home.