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Jermaine Franklin exclusive: from 12-hour factory shifts to 12-round fight against Anthony Joshua - 'I never gave up hope'

Jermaine Franklin exclusive: from 12-hour factory shifts to 12-round fight against Anthony Joshua - 'I never gave up hope'

Jermaine Franklin spoke to SPORTbible about his journey to the top of the heavyweight division.

The underdog moniker isn't something new for Jermaine Franklin ahead of his massive showdown against Anthony Joshua, having fought against the odds throughout his entire professional career. But he's not just fighting for a chance to become a top contender, but also for his beloved family. He takes on Joshua knowing it's the best version of himself after ditching his 12-hour shift day job to focus on boxing. A career-defining victory on April 1 would culminate a humble journey to the top as he looks to shock the world.

Franklin's rise in the heavyweight division is nothing short of remarkable. After going 21-0, the 29-year-old was presented with an opportunity he had been waiting for his whole career. A headline fight against Dillian Whyte. Unfortunately for Franklin, he tasted defeat for the first time, suffering a razor-thin majority decision loss. But he never gave up hope - a testament to his upbringing in the modest surroundings of Saginaw, Michigan.

"I never gave up hope," he told SPORTbible. "I know for some of us boxing is kind of a slow grind compared to how others get their success. Some of us we got to jump through a lot of loops. But I never gave up hope. I always knew in my mind, I always felt like it had come back around.

"I'm from Saginaw, Michigan, you know, there's not a lot of opportunity. And a lot of us make it out with sports or you know, we try other avenues. I try to tell kids; it's more than just being an athlete. A lot of us come from poverty and stuff like that. I feel like ambition and hope is a big thing. Even though hope doesn't change anything, but you know, just to be in that mind state mentally, like I never gave up.

"I'm always fighting for my family; the fight is within me always. When I'm going through those tough rounds or those championship rounds, I just mentally talk to myself, push myself give myself motivation and stuff like that. I'll find a way to hype myself up and keep it pushing."

Jermaine Franklin in action against Dillian Whyte. Image: Alamy
Jermaine Franklin in action against Dillian Whyte. Image: Alamy

Before being tasked to face Whyte back in November 2022, Franklin was still juggling a day job whilst looking after his children.

He produced a valiant performance and took him the distance despite barely training. He was working a 12-hour job to pay his bills because, despite being 21-0 at the time, he wasn't making any money in boxing. It's not a sob story. Far from it - just the reality of a budding boxer attempting to crack the game whilst having to take care of his family.

"I was in a knitting department, making netting that goes in between the vinyl cord. I was at a factory job for a while," he explained. "I haven't had the time because it's 12-hour shifts. I don't have the time to be able to do it and still train and do everything."

Asked when was the last time he did his day job, he replied: "Before I got the Dillian fight. I wasn't in the gym at all, because I wasn't making any money. So I had to work and take care of my family. And we got that fight. I let my managers, and everybody, know what was going on and we started training from that day.

"At that point, I wasn't in the gym. I was strictly working, and I had to provide for my family. I wasn't making money through boxing. I still got bills, I got kids and stuff like that. I wasn't really in the gym at all. I was just working at my job, trying to find time to go to the gym. But you know with those 12-hour shifts, I go 7-7, I get off work, I had to take my kids to school at like 8:30. And then I come home, get a little bit of sleep, pick my kids up at 3 and I go to work in four hours."

Don't be fooled by Franklin's unassuming style. He's a different kind of beast when he steps inside the ring and he acknowledges that, revealing the 'mental games' he performs to 'trick' himself to get fired up.

"All kinds of crazy stuff. I'm a laid-back chilled guy, but I'm kind of crazy in the ring. I'm a whole different person in the ring," he added. "But I tell myself all kinds of stuff like no like 'don't be a punk, there's no quit here, nobodies tougher than me' - all types of mental games to make me trick myself into getting, I don't want to say get angry, but I trick myself into getting fired up.

"So I can try my best to push it out or try my best to do something different or, you know, maybe I need to throw late rounds combination or something like that."

Jermaine Franklin faces off against Anthony Joshua. Image: Alamy
Jermaine Franklin faces off against Anthony Joshua. Image: Alamy

Franklin is relishing the underdog status but write him off at your peril. He's not only looking to claim one of the biggest scalps in the heavyweight division, but also to prove a lot of people wrong.

"I've been put in that category my whole career. It's comfortable. I come from a place where, you know, the whole city is kind of put on that pedestal unless you show somebody different. We are all kind of underdogs, and we all kind of get put down a lot," he said. "In this sport, I always got the sh*t end of the stick. I'm the guy nobody knows about or I'm the guy that's out of shape or I'm the guy that's going to get knocked out in a couple of rounds.

"We always face adversity when we're fighting. I'm comfortable with that point now. It doesn't rattle my cage, or it doesn't make me feel the type of way because people think I'm an underdog I'd love to prove people wrong, honestly."

A win over Joshua would catapult Franklin into the upper-echelon of the heavyweight ranks and stand him in good stead to land a world title shot - an accomplishment that would mean everything for his career. But having gold wrapped around his waist wouldn't change his humble demeanour.

"It will mean everything for my career. Outside of boxing, I'm still me. I'm still Jermaine Franklin. I don't think I would change regardless of if I boxed or not. I'm still a humble guy, hard worker, very family orientated but for my career, I think it means a lot for all my trials and tribulations - all the hard work I've put into the sport."

Follow Franklin's journey through his social media channels - Twitter / Instagram.

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Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Instagram/@jermainefranklinboxing

Topics: Anthony Joshua, Boxing, Spotlight