Heavyweight contender Jermaine Franklin is set to return to the ring Thursday night against one-time prospect Devin Vargas.

Michigan’s Franklin (22-2, 14 KOs) defeated Isaac Gutierrez over 10 rounds last July, his first win since back-to-back losses in England, firstly to Dillian Whyte and then Anthony Joshua.

Franklin was beaten only on a majority by Whyte, and he was competitive against Joshua last April.

With the heavyweight division packing its suitcases and heading off to Saudi Arabia, Franklin is keen to get involved with the exodus. 

“I want anything exciting,” said the man from Saginaw. “We’re trying to keep the excitement up there, we want exciting fights. I know they’re supposed to have some big cards in L.A., so hopefully I can piggyback off the excitement that’s happening in L.A. in August.”

Franklin is referring to the card on Aug. 3 that sees Terence Crawford headline, with a possible undercard attraction that would feature American heavyweights Deontay Wilder and Jared Anderson.

“It’s a big thing,” Franklin said of the Middle Eastern investment. “And it’s a big thing for the sport, letting guys who we really want to see compete with each other on the normal basis, trying to make it normal. I think that’s exciting for the sport and for the fans.”

The 30-year-old Franklin is not short on confidence ahead of Thursday’s bout at the Wayne State Fieldhouse in Detroit, on the latest show staged by promoter Dmitriy Salita as part of his DAZN series.

So while Franklin would like to get into the heavyweight mix and follow the big names – and the money – he first and foremost wants to make sure he has taken care of life at home first. That is why he does what he does.

“Honestly, I just motivate myself,” Franklin said when asked whether he was motivated by marquee nights against Whyte and Joshua. “My family, my love for the game and my kids, that’s all it is. I’m wired different from a lot of people. I just need my family and my love for the game and my coach and my people. That’s enough inspiration for me. A lot of the glitz and the glamor don’t really get to me that much, so just being wholesome, seeing my people being excited, me being excited, that’s what really drives me.”

Franklin has three children – two daughters, aged 11 and seven, and a son, who is almost two.

“They love to see me do it,” he said, smiling proudly. “They’re nervous, but they still love to see me out there, and they’re the greatest inspiration I could have. We all got families. We all fight for a better life. Sometimes some of us do all this fighting and we don’t get a chance to experience a better life.”

Would he encourage them to box?

“If they want to,” Franklin said. “Boxing is not something I think you can force on people. They’re around it enough, and if they start to take a liking to it, I’ll train them. I’ll never force them to box – but I will teach them how to defend themselves.”

Franklin’s own defense has been worked on by his coach, Jessie Addison, while studying tape of past and current greats. Franklin might have been around since turning pro in 2015, notching useful wins over the likes of Rydell Booker and Jerry Forrest, but he is always learning.

“We go back a long, long time. Even in the amateurs,” he said of learning with ex-pro Addison. “My first coach was a guy named Ryan Garcia from Saginaw, Michigan. Good guy, great coach. He started me on my path, and I think Jesse was the first guy to take me on the pads. He wasn’t even part of the gym; we just always had a good relationship. My stepdad that started me boxing, him and Jessie was close friends, so me and Jessie always had a close-knit relationship, even when he wasn’t training me. And I think by the time I graduated high school, I had moved out of town. I was 17, 18 when I came back, and me and coach have been training together ever since.”

Asked about his influences, the modest Franklin admits he is a work in progress. He will find himself watching fights and wondering how he can work moves, combinations and other ideas into his own tool bag.

“Honestly, I steal from everybody,” Franklin said. “You can’t call yourself a student of the game if you’re not learning something from somebody. When I watch boxing, I like old boxing. But whether it’s the older or newer guys, I watch the stuff they’re great at then I see if it’s something I can implement. If I can implement it, it’s something I will try to … maybe it’s something that I can do in spots and I’ll try to implement it.

“But, if not, I don’t try to force something that will get me hurt. Outside of that, I think we all take stuff from each other. If you don’t or if your coach says he don’t take stuff from other people, I think he’s lying. We’re all students of the game and learn every day.”