Anthony Joshua silences critics with dramatic victory against Jermaine Franklin
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Anthony Joshua came through a bruising and bloody battle against Jermaine Franklin to get back to winning ways.
It wasn't the statement performance to really reignite the British heavyweight star's career but he was a comfortable winner on the cards. This is potentially the final chapter of the two-time world champion's time in the ring and there will be bigger tests to come than this.
If he is to beat a Tyson Fury or regain the world titles then he will need to better But he got the job done with little danger and now has his first fight with a new trainer under his belt and the all important victory.
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There were some ugly scenes at the end when the pair continued pushing and shoving after the final bell and the American's corner tried to get involved.
But calm was soon restored as the cards of 118-111, 117-111 and 117-111 were read out to much delight at The O2. Joshua, 33, came out to a loud reception for his first fight at the venue in seven years.
Franklin, 29, had emerged to a less welcome reception. The American didn't have a great journey to the venue either as he took the London Underground because of traffic chaos in the area.
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Joshua was looking to impress on his return after back-to-back defeats by Oleksandr Usyk cost him his WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles.
As the crowd cried out his name, Joshua got to work with a solid jab but he failed to find his range for the right in the first against Franklin.
The American was far from world class but his only loss coming into this was against Dillian Whyte last year. When Joshua did get through with a right in the second, Franklin appeared to shake it off and stuck his tongue out.
Another right cracked Franklin but the underdog was not detered as blood flowed from Joshua's nose thanks to some of the good work from the American.
Joshua was landing left hooks and finished the third with a big right but he wasn't having it all his own way in an intriguing, if not thrilling, battle.
'AJ' wasn't going through the gears in the early rounds as he stuck to his plan to box behind the jab in his first fight with new trainer Derrick James.
Joshua was more than a stone and a half heavier than Franklin at the weigh-in but his rights still weren't moving the brave Michigan bruiser.
But the Brit was doing more than enough to win the rounds even if he wasn't totally dominant. The American was starting to get to Joshua in the seventh and they exchanged words at the end of the round.
It was getting to the point that Joshua just needed to get the job done as it wasn't going to be a spectacular performance. A right rattled Franklin in the eighth but it only sparked a retaliation from the rugged fighter.
Joshua's white shorts had now gone a shade of red thanks to the blood coming from his nose as the bout got scrappy with both tiring. Franklin got through with a right of his own in the ninth as a hush of concern came over the arena.
But they were back roaring their hero on as a big right uppercut followed by a straight back hand finally appeared to hurt Franklin. Joshua continued to catch his man clean in the 11th before seeing it out in the final round.
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