Former heavyweight champion is back in action on Saturday knowing a third straight loss would signal the end of his career

As Anthony Joshua walks to the ring at the 02 in London on Saturday night, to face the relatively limited American Jermaine Franklin, it will be more than two years and three months since he last had his hand raised in victory. In December 2020, on a bleak winter night in the midst of Covid and in front of a sparse crowd of a thousand socially distanced fans, Joshua bludgeoned Kubrat Pulev to earn a ninth-round stoppage win.

Despite lockdown restrictions, Joshua left Wembley Arena on a high as he retained his IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight titles. It seemed certain, then, that he would soon fight Tyson Fury, the WBC belt-holder, for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.

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