Jermaine Franklin’s career may be considered dormant rather than delayed, the unbeaten yet untapped American heavyweight having mounted his revival after two-and-a-half years of watching and waiting, grinding and plotting in Michigan’s fighting factory.
It was the summer of 2020 when Franklin assumed an opportunity to lead the pursuit of American payback after witnessing Tyson Fury dethrone the might of Deontay Wilder in the second fight of their trilogy, just months after Anthony Joshua had out-boxed Andy Ruiz Jr. to make amends in their December rematch.
A young Franklin has defied the ‘kick the can down the road’ nature of boxing development, as much being clear when he opted to turn professional as opposed to seeking a place at the Rio 2016 Games. He wanted the best then, and wants the best now.
Now 28, he has stepped foot in the ring for the first time since October 2019 earlier this month as he marked his return with a fifth-round TKO win over Rodney Moore to extend his perfect record to 21-0 (14 knockouts).
“It felt good to be back in the ring. It felt good to be home and back in the ring after two and a half years. It felt good to fight a good fight,” Franklin told Sky Sports.
“I had a lot of people who were trying to hold my career back and hold me down. I had to wake up and realise what was going on.
“Now I’m just trying to move forward with (promoter) Dmitriy (Salita), trying to make things work and get back out there. Things are going good so far.”
Franklin had been touted as a potential opponent for Dillian Whyte last summer in the wake of the Body Snatcher’s rematch victory over Alexander Povetkin.
Whyte himself name-dropped Franklin as one of the contenders to face him, only for nothing to materialise as the Brit eventually turned his attention towards a long-awaited title shot against Tyson Fury in April.
In some ways it epitomised a lengthy and frustrating absence from the ring, Franklin’s mental focus and drive challenged as much as his ability to stay visually prepared.
“It’s hard to just train every day. Being boxers and athletes, we train a lot and train a lot to not even get fights sometimes, so if you’re just in training in the gym for year after year, after a while you start to lose your motivation,” Franklin admitted.
“I lost my motivation for a while, I’m not going to lie and say I just had it the whole time. I had spots where I felt like I needs to be in the gym and spots where I felt I need to work on other stuff.
“I kind of took it personally [when the fight with Whyte fell through]but I didn’t take it too personally because I understand how the business works.”
One fight back and with promoter Dmitriy Salita planning the next move, he deems himself America’s most exciting heavyweight contender.
“I believe that’s the case and that I can prove that. I’m going to prove it in the ring.”
Salita admits that Whyte, whose attempt to strip Fury of the WBC heavyweight championship ended in a sixth-round knockout defeat at Wembley, “pulled the plug” on a potential fight with Franklin.
Franklin has previously been compared to Whyte and was even sought out by Alexander Povetkin’s team as an ideal sparring partner for the Russian, only for the coronavirus pandemic to scupper his travel plans.
But with uncertainty lingering throughout the heavyweight scene, Franklin’s camp sense an opportunity to strike.
“It was very close [to a fight with Dillian Whyte being agreed],” said Salita.
“Even though Jermaine, at that point, had been out of the ring for some time, it just goes to show with him – if you look at his record he has fought so many undefeated fighters coming up, which is really unusual for a prospect .
“Jermaine was training and ready to hand Dillian Whyte that loss, but Tyson Fury beat him to the punch. Jermaine is back in the rotation and he would welcome that fight on again.”
A hard-fought win over Jerry Forrest has gained more luster after his former opponent fought to a draw against Michael Hunter, one of the division’s top contenders.
Hunter has notably been linked with a summer fight against Hughie Fury, who Salita has identified as another ideal test.
“Hughie Fury is another fight we love and we’ve had some conversations about it. Again, the ball is in Hughie Fury’s court to make it happen. That would be a fight between two young, upcoming heavyweights,” said Salita.
“Jermaine is a young man and throughout his career has shown his exciting style and has fought with some quality guys. He’s definitely ready to step up and fight some better contenders in the United States and in the UK.
“I think Jermaine has all the skills and the personality to really take over the division and be the guy on top. I think the time off has helped Jermaine focus and realise the important things in his life and career, and this is going to be a great ride. I know the boxing fans in the UK will love and appreciate him for his fighting style and the heart and determination to fight the best and to challenge himself.”
Franklin spent the best part of two-and-a-half years restricted behind closed doors and feeling the full force of the sport’s ‘out of sight out of mind’ state of purgatory.
He wants to be the new face of American heavyweight boxing, and is willing to face Britain’s best names to boost his reputation.
“There are not a lot of American heavyweights with the record like Jermaine or the talent of Jermaine, or the amateur pedigree he had,” said promoter Salita.
“We’ve had some talks over some big fights in recent times and I believe now, with Jermaine focused and ready and back in ring, he’s ready to prove he’s one of the heavyweights in the sport of boxing to challenge for the title.
“The UK seems to be the Mecca of heavyweight boxing at the moment – there’s Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte, [Dereck] Chisora, [Joe] Joyce, the list goes on. Jermaine is ready for all of those guys and he’s ready to bring the belt back to the United States, where it has been for many years.”