It was formally announced on Wednesday that unified heavyweight world titleholder, Anthony Joshua, will be making his Stateside debut at the Madison Square Garden on June 1 against Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.
This is a solid matchup given that Joshua is rated first by ESPN.com in the heavyweight division, while the bombastic Miller is rated seventh. You can’t complain too much about a pairing of two legitimate top ten big men. It’s a quality fight by today’s standards.
Miller in many ways is the perfect foil for Joshua, not only is he a credible opponent, but he is a colorful character. His personality is as big as his body. He’s loud brash and bombastic. The mouthy Brooklynite was chosen for this assignment not just for his ability, but also for his marketability as the B-side, as Joshua begins to expand his horizons beyond England.
And if he can get inside the reach of Joshua early on, Miller’s steady work rate on the inside will trouble Joshua. Yeah, it says right here that this is a real fight. One that could be entertaining and provide some memorable moments.
But it’s not the heavyweight bout that boxing fans, both domestically and abroad, is yearning for.
That would be a showdown between Joshua (who has the WBA, IBF and WBO belts around his waist) and the WBC belt-holder, Deontay Wilder (who is rated number two in the division by ESPN). Joshua and Wilder are considered the two best fighters in the game’s glamour division and beyond that, have already developed a rivalry if sorts, despite not having actually faced one another inside the ring.
There aren’t many fights nowadays that would transcend the sport — but Joshua-Wilder would be one of them.
Both are big, can punch and bring sizable fan-bases and followings from two different continents.
Unfortunately, for the time being, the business of boxing is getting in the way of the actual sport of boxing. Which is why these two hard-punching behemoths continue to circle each other in what has a very public negotiation between the two sides. So far, the only jabs that have been thrown are through the media as both sides have continued to posture and place blame on the other side as to why Joshua-Wilder has not come to fruition.
To be fair, given the nature of the controversial draw that took place back in December between Wilder and Tyson Fury, it was only natural that they run this back again. The Wilder-Fury rematch figures to be another intriguing contest and one that will do increased pay-per-view numbers (which is important as Wilder looks to improve his bargaining power versus the box-office titan that is Joshua in the UK).
But make no doubt about it, both Joshua and Wilder are playing a dangerous high risk game of chicken here.
The allure of Joshua-Wilder is that both have not suffered losses in their careers thus far, and the consensus is that they are the two most lethal heavyweights on the planet. Fury, nearly disrupted all the best laid plans of mice and men by befuddling Wilder for much of their bout at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. A huge sigh of relief could be heard by those on Wilder’s team, as Wilder was able to salvage a draw and retain his title.
The winner of this rematch — which might take place on May 18 at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn– will clearly be the number one contender for Joshua’s throne, and there will be loud clamoring for Joshua to face the winner next, should he get past Miller.
But nothing is every truly guaranteed in this sport, especially in the heavyweight division when dealing with two heavyweights who are a bit chinny and vulnerable when it comes to punch resistance. Anyone recall Tommy Morrison getting shocked in the first round by Michael Bentt in 1993, as he had a multi-million dollar payday versus Lennox Lewis awaiting him?
There’s an old saying that states, “fights make fights” and certainly if either Miller and/or Fury win these upcoming bouts, they will be the ones in position to shake things up and become the shot callers at heavyweight. But while there are various permutations of heavyweight matchups that can be made, we all know the one that matters most, at this moment.
Joshua and Wilder could be performing just weeks apart in separate boroughs in New York. If they both come out victorious, will they come any closer to one another in 2019?