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Anthony Joshua vs. TBA: Is the Maddening Logjam About to Burst Open?

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  • Anthony Joshua vs. TBA: Is the Maddening Logjam About to Burst Open?

    Click image for larger version  Name:	0_Boxing-2017-Jarrell-Miller-vs-Gerald-Washington.jpg Views:	1 Size:	82.2 KB ID:	12228

    By Arne K. Lang

    By the time that you read this, Team Anthony Joshua may have come to terms with Team Jarrell Miller for a fight in New York in late April or May. “Big Baby,” say multiple sources, has separated himself from the pack in the scrum to be Joshua’s next opponent.

    Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) last appeared on Sept. 22 at Wembley Stadium where he successfully defended his WBA, IBF, and WBO belts with a seventh round stoppage of Alexander Povetkin. Not long after, his promoter Eddie Hearn reserved Wembley for the date of April 13 for Joshua’s next fight.

    Speculation as to Joshua’s next opponent immediately centered on WBC title-holder Deontay Wilder, who had been chasing Joshua for several years, and countryman Tyson Fury who had returned to the ring in June after a two-and-a-half year absence and was still recognized in many quarters as the lineal heavyweight champion.

    On Dec. 1, Wilder and Fury threw a monkey-wrench into those speculations. They fought each other in Los Angeles and when the smoke cleared both had retained their undefeated records. Their mill, scored a draw, was so crowd pleasing that it commanded a rematch. The WBC set a deadline of Feb. 5 for negotiations to conclude before the match went to a purse bid with Wilder receiving the lion’s share of a 60/40 split.

    The WBC subsequently granted a seven-day extension. The Wilder-Fury rematch is expected to be announced by Monday of next week. The dates being considered are April 27 and May 18 in New York or Las Vegas.

    With Wilder and Fury seemingly out of the running, Dillian Whyte emerged as the favorite. Whyte, a Londoner like Joshua, had a big 2018, scoring highlight reel knockouts over Lucas Browne and Dereck Chisora sandwiched around a unanimous decision over former WBO title-holder Joseph Parker.

    A Joshua-Whyte match would be a rematch. On Dec. 12, 2015, Joshua knocked Whyte out cold in the seventh round with an uppercut after wobbling him with a big right hand. But Joshua had an anxious moment in round two when Whyte wobbled him.

    Heading into that fight, Joshua had 14 fights under his belt, two fewer than Dillian Whyte. There’s a school of thought that Whyte has improved more in the interim.

    Whyte, by all accounts, priced himself out of the rematch by demanding more money than Eddie Hearn was willing to pay. New names emerged as potential opponents: Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, who was always lurking in the background, Wladimir Klitschko, and Kubrat Pulev.

    There was wide speculation last month that Klitschko would come out of retirement and seek to regain the heavyweight belts that Joshua sheared from him on April 29, 2017 at Wembley in what was a fight for the ages. That talk has quieted down. Pulev, a 37-year-old Bulgarian who sports a 26-1 record, was slated to fight Joshua in October of 2017 but suffered a torn biceps in training and was forced to withdraw, yielding his spot to Carlos Takam.

    Hearn and Joshua would take a lot of heat if Joshua opted for a soft defense against Kubrat Pulev, but they could claim that their hands were tied as Pulev is Joshua’s IBF mandatory, a distinction he earned when he outpointed previously undefeated Hughie Fury, Tyson’s cousin.

    You can probably scratch Pulev from the list as he has reportedly agreed to fight Finland’s Robert Helenius on a March 23 Top Rank show in Los Angeles headlined by the 130-pound title fight between Miguel Berchelt and Francisco Vargas, a rematch of their 2017 barnburner. That leaves Miller as the last man standing, but a fight between him and Joshua is no lock -- at least not as I write this -- as Miller has a lot of “advisors” whose influence trumps that of his co-promoters Greg Cohen and Dmitriy Salita. Let's not forget that old adage of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

    “Big Baby” has put on more than 60 pounds since his pro debut in 2009. In his last start against hapless Bogdan Dinu he came in at 315 ¼. But despite his girth, Miller, who stands six-foot-four, doesn’t really have one-punch knockout power. He was extended the distance by journeyman Johan Duhaupas, a fighter who had been stopped by Wilder and Povetkin. The draw on his 23-0-1 record came early in his pro career in a 4-round bout with Joey Dawejko.

    Eddie Hearn seemed to be dusting off the hype machine with this comment to a reporter for the Daily Mail: “Over there (New York) it will be a new experience, new ring, new canvas, new commission, all this kind of stuff. It’s not going to be easy.” Steve Bunce, England’s most well-known boxing pundit, was undoubtedly nonplussed. “Miller can talk a lot and fight a bit” he told listeners to his weekly podcast.

    The good thing about the negotiations drawing to a close – regardless of Joshua’s next opponent – is that all this speculation has become tedious. And a pox on all those web sites that sucked in traffic with fake news headlines that said Joshua vs. (name your pick) was a done deal. Unfortunately, what passes for journalism in the digital age is rife with bait-and-switch cons.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    AJ vs Miller = slaughter