It was meant to be the year that Anthony Joshua broke America.
His boss, Eddie Hearn, had signed a multi-million pound deal with streaming service DAZN, and his debut bout at Madison Square Garden was booked in for June 1.
Now all he needed to do was beat Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller to set up a huge fight against the American, Deontay Wilder, or Tyson Fury, who himself has committed to fighting in the US with his own megabucks TV deal.
But then the hitch came….
Jarrell Miller Fails His Drugs Test
Miller has failed a drugs test, and so the New York State Athletic Commission has refused to issue him a licence for the contest.
The heavyweight delivered an ‘adverse finding’ in a urine sample presented on March 20, and now AJ and his team wait nervously as the B sample is tested for corroboration.
Miller has rejected any wrongdoing, claiming he’s ‘done nothing wrong’ and that the ‘facts will prevail and I shall be vindicated’.
“My team and I stand for integrity, decency and honesty, and we will fight this with everything we have,” the 30-year-old said.
However, the likelihood is that the decision will be upheld and that Miller will be barred from fighting.
A Needle in a Haystack
That leaves Joshua, Hearn and their connections in something of a bind. The fight date won’t be cancelled – Hearn and his Matchroom backers would lose millions, and they love their money – and so they will have no choice but to seek an alternative opponent for the WBA, WBO and IBF strap holder.
The problem is that any potential opponent would have a training camp of barely five or six weeks, and so most would turn down the chance to fight an animal like Joshua. Indeed, the likes of Luis Ortiz and Adam Kownacki have already reportedly turned down the chance to face AJ in MSG.
There are, apparently, two other names doing the rounds. Manuel Charr holds a version of the WBA belt, and he has apparently been in talks with the Matchroom team.
“I want to show the world who is the real WBA heavyweight champion of the world is,” he said, “I have the experience and I want to show AJ boxing lessons. I have many fights and I bring with me the Syria heart.”
It seems that the Lebanese born, German native has been misled about the size of his opponent, however.
“I am not scared of anybody. If I must fight a dinosaur I will be ready to win this battle,” he confirmed.
It’s a good fight for Joshua, truth be told, as Charr is a skilled but non-dangerous opponent without any major scalps on his CV. It would be a good workout, but nothing more, for the English fighter, and he would have ample opportunity to show the US audience his strength and power.
The other side of the coin is that the fans would surely be disappointed with that level of opponent for AJ on his American debut, and you wonder if Hearn will be tempted to put in a call to his fighter’s old nemesis, Dillian Whyte.
The Body Snatcher suffered defeat to AJ in 2015 but is widely considered to have given him one of the toughest fights of his career to date, and he would love nothing more than to gatecrash Joshua’s US bow in devastating fashion.
However, while being highly-ranked by many of the sport’s governing bodies, Whyte is a virtual unknown on American soil, and it would be a tough sell on the part of Hearn and his team to put bums back on seats.
Interestingly, a number of bookmakers have published odds for a selection of alternative fights, and you can visit Betfair for the following options: