ANTHONY JOSHUA insists he’s “mentally and physically” ready to return to the ring – six months after his emotional post-fight outburst.
Joshua, 33, will bid to pick up the pieces of his near-shattered career in April in a must-win showdown with American gunslinger Jermaine Franklin but will do so in a much better state of mind than in his last outing.
The Brit said: “I’m looking forward to stepping back into the ring on April 1 at The O2 in London. Mentally and physically I feel ready.”
AJ will be under the guidance of renowned coach Derrick James for his first outing at the O2 in six-and-a-half years and plans to put on a show for his new trainer.
The former two-time unified heavyweight champion said: “I want to put on a show and impress my coach as he has high standards.
“Franklin has a good style and a great attitude, which he has shown in recent fights.”
The pressure of avenging his first lopsided defeat to Usyk and regaining the unified heavyweight titles to set up a mouthwatering Battle of Britain with Tyson Fury ate away at AJ ahead of the ill-fated Saudi showdown.
He admitted: “I swear to you, [it] just tore me apart.
“I had so much riding on it for me, the British fans, the undisputed fight.
“It just really tore me apart, so from a mental capacity, my close ones are telling me you should rest mentally. Physically I’m down to ride.
“I’m a warrior. I like this game, I like competing, but on a mental aspect, I think people are really seeing that this means a lot.
“Even if I’m not fighting I see my name getting called out every day.
“So, it’s the mental pressure that’s being AJ as well.
“And obviously holding up a reputation as well, these type of things go hand in hand. It’s tough, man.”
🥊 Anthony Joshua vs Jermaine Franklin – Date, live stream, TV channel and all you need to know about heavyweight bout
Defeat to Franklin – who was on the receiving end of a controversial split-decision defeat to Dillian Whyte last November, would be curtains for Joshua’s faint world title hopes.
Promoter Eddie Hearn told iFL TV: “You go into that fight in April and you know that defeat, it’s all over, really.
“It would be a third back-to-back defeat and yet a great performance and a showroom knockout will get everyone saying, ‘We’re back, baby.’
“That’s what I can’t wait for because I love it when our backs are against the wall.
“I’m excited. I’m really excited. This is the most excited I’ve been in Joshua’s journey so far.”