ANTHONY JOSHUA insists he’s “mentally and physically” ready to return to the ring – six months after his emotional post-fight outburst.
The Watford warrior went on an uncharacteristic and expletive-filled rant following his second successive defeat to pound-for-pound king Oleksandr Usyk last August.
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.”
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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.”
Anthony Joshua says he’s ‘mentally and physically’ ready to fight after breaking down in tears following Usyk loss | The Sun