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Two-time heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will announce his comeback opponent next week and promoter Eddie Hearn admits he is close to finalising the contracts for the British-Nigerian’s April 1 comeback.

The 33-year-old has not fought since August’s rematch defeat to Oleksandr Usyk which made it back-to-back defeats to the Ukrainian after a previous loss in September 2021.

Joshua’s last victory came over two years ago when he took down Kubrat Pulev.

And Hearn is keen to secure a big-name opponent who can put Joshua back on track to fight the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.

There had been talk of a brutal battle against Filip Hrgovic, but he has been ordered to face Andy Ruiz Jr in an IBF eliminator.

Meanwhile, Hearn has also effectively ruled out Otto Wallin and Demsey McKean after revealing Joshua does not want to take on another southpaw since it doesn’t align with his plans to face other orthodox fighters.

That could leave Jermaine Franklin as the man to fight Joshua on April Fool’s Day, with the American looking to avenge November’s London defeat to Joshua’s rival, Dillian Whyte.

However, fans won’t have to wait too long to find out the former champ’s next opponent, as Hearn is currently finalising contracts with a plan to confirm the bout next week.

“(Franklin) is definitely in the mix. Demsey McKean is still in the mix,” he told Boxing Social.

“The link-up with a new trainer means a southpaw fighter, even though Joshua just boxed one of them twice, is not ideal. When you look at the future for Anthony Joshua, the future revolves around Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Dillian Whyte. They’re three orthodox fighters. It is likely that he will face an orthodox fighter next.

“I think Jermaine Franklin is a great fighter. People say ‘it’s definitely Franklin’. Nothing is signed and agreed with. But Franklin is coming off a fight where it was very close with Whyte. Some people felt he won that fight.”

A blockbuster summer rematch with Whyte is believed to be in the offing for the former unified world champion, provided he successfully emerges from his comeback bout this spring.

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An amateur footballer in France, described as a “fanatic”, was on Friday banned from playing for 30 years for punching a referee.

“The penalty is appropriate. These fanatics must not be able to set foot on a football pitch again. They have no place there,” said Benoit Laine, president of the Loiret football district in central France.

The 25-year-old player, who was not named by officials, was angry at being sent off while featuring for Entente Sportive Gatinaise in a local cup game on January 8.Related News

He punched the referee so hard that the official was signed off work for two days.

The team was also kicked out of the tournament for the next two seasons.


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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Premier League leaders Arsenal are benefitting from the patience showed to Mikel Arteta in his early years in charge of the Gunners.

Arteta worked as Guardiola’s assistant at City for three-and-a-half years before taking his first senior managerial role at the Emirates in 2019.

The Spaniard had immediate success in winning the 2020 FA Cup, but failed to break into the Premier League’s top four in any of his first three seasons.

Now Arsenal are well on course to end a 19-year wait to win a league title as they lead City by five points and have a game in hand on Guardiola’s men.

The two sides face off for the first of three meetings in the coming months in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday.

“I had the feeling. We knew it when he was here,” said Guardiola on Arteta’s coaching ability.

“The biggest compliment for Arsenal as well is for backing him in the bad moments and trusting him, and keeping him and relying on him.

“At the end, you need time, you need investment and the results are there. It is a challenge for us to challenge them.”

During Guardiola’s reign in Manchester, City dominated English football, winning four Premier League titles among nine major trophies.

But he has tried to light a fire under his players in recent weeks to revive the hunger that has brought so much success.

Guardiola has even used Arsenal’s desire during the first half of the season as an example for his side to match.

“A team with 50 points in one leg (half of the season) is the best. We have to prove how far away or how close we are,” added Guardiola on Friday’s cup clash.

“I encourage them to look themselves. When they are not happy for many reasons, the only way is to perform better.

“Think in the past is the past. What happened in the past is the past. We get the salary for what we will do in the future. Extend the contract, what we’re going to do in the future. The past is done.”

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Super Eagles goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho, is currently Nigeria’s best shot-stopper in Europe this season, according to statistics website Tranfermarkt.

The Nigerian has kept more clean sheets than any of his compatriots in Europe this season.

The in-form Omonia Nicosia goalkeeper has kept eight clean sheets in 15 games, conceding 14 goals so far this term – the best return so far among the top Nigerian goalkeepers in Europe.

The 24-year-old’s contract with Omonia ends at the end of this season, with the player open to a potential exit amid reports Ligue 1 club Stade Reims interested in his services.

Hapoel Jerusalem goalkeeper Adebayo Adeleye is the second-rated Nigerian keeper in Europe after keeping six clean sheets in 15 games this season, conceding 16 goals, while Sebastien Osigwe is third in the ranking, having kept two clean sheets from three games so far this term for Lugano.

Maduka Okoye is ranked fourth as he is yet to keep a clean sheet for Watford after two games this term.

Okoye has fallen out of favour for both club and country. For the Eagles, he is behind Uzoho in the pecking order and in Watford, the 23-year-old has struggled for minutes finding the more experienced Austria international Daniel Bachmann more favoured by the Hornets backroom.

Okoye, who is open to a move away from Vicarage Road, has also been linked with a return to the Dutch Eredivisie.

“We’ll see what happens. My contract runs until 2027, so anything is possible. Maybe I will be rented out, or not, I don’t know yet,” Okoye told Voetbal Primeur.

“The Eredivisie? Yes, that sounds like something to me. The clubs in the Netherlands know me well from Sparta and know what they can do with me. We’ll see. For now, I’m just focusing completely on Watford and the games we’re going to play.”

Meanwhile, Eagles goalkeeper trainer, Ike Shorunmu, is pleased with the form of the goalies in Europe and has urged them not to take their foot off the burner.

“The goalkeepers are doing well and I can only say that this form will make competition for places in the Eagles more competitive when they stay in form. The AFCON qualifiers are around the corner and I hope they maintain this form,” Shorunmu said.

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