By Michael Rosenthal
Anthony Joshua had to fight someone somewhere. Jarrell Miller in New York City wasn’t a bad choice.
Joshua undoubtedly has felt neglected over the past year or more. The holder of multiple heavyweight titles was unable to lure either Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury into the ring and then could only watch as his rivals fought one another in what turned out to be a compelling draw. And it looks as if Wilder and Fury will engage in a rematch this spring, leaving Joshua on the outside looking in again.
Joshua had hoped his consolation prize would be a rematch with Dillian Whyte on April 13 at a packed Wembley Stadium but the fighters couldn’t come to terms and Joshua gave up the date, another frustrating blow.
All of the above is an unfortunate fate for the No. 1 heavyweight in the world, one that undoubtedly has tested his patience.
Good news for him: He will have his day. He will sometime soon fight either Wilder or Fury in his first superfight since he knocked out Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 and he’ll win that fight to remove any doubt that he is the rightful king of the sport’s traditional glamour division. Patience.
In the meantime, he’s stuck with Miller on June 1 at Madison Square Garden, his first fight outside the U.K.
Joshua (22-0, 21 knockouts) and his handlers had expressed an interest in fighting in the United States to broaden his global appeal, which sounds reasonable. The added exposure in the U.S. will, at least in theory, translate into a larger audience when the time comes to fight Wilder or Fury.
The loquacious Miller, who grew up in Brooklyn, also is a terrific self-marketer. His busy mouth will garner the matchup more attention than it might otherwise receive.
Here’s one of his tweets shortly after the fight was formally announced: “Now it’s TIME Tell AJ take all the humble s--t put on ice cream cone and shove we’re sun don’t shine you Sweet and low Barbie doll WELCOME TO MY CITY WERE RATS AND ROCHES STEAL YOUR POCKET MONEY -THIS IS MY CITY #[email protected]&$Boy #BROOKLYN #QUEENS #Statinisland #BRONX #manhattan.”
That’ll do as a starter.
The fight was fairly easy to make. Miller is co-promoted by Eddie Hearn, who guides Joshua’s career, and has been looking for such an opportunity. Slam dunk.
And, finally, the unbeaten Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs) is a pretty good fighter who deserves the opportunity as much as any other contender and will have the advantage of fighting in his backyard. It could be an interesting fight, at least for a while.
Miller is 6 feet, 4 inches, two inches shorter than Joshua, but will outweigh the champion. He came in at a whopping 315¼ pounds (143 kg) for his last fight, a fourth-round knockout of Bogdan Dinu in November. The challenger probably will weigh closer to the 283¼ (128 kg) he weighed when he fought Mariusz Wach in November 2017 – or at least he should – but will still be bulkier than Joshua, who has never weighed more than 254 (115 kg) for a fight.
And in spite of his girth, Miller can move. He’s a natural athlete. He can also punch, as evidenced by his knockout ratio. That keeps him in any fight, including this one.
Does that mean Miller has a realistic chance of winning? Nah. Miller is good, not special, much like Joshua’s opponents since he fought Klitschko – Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin, each of whom had his strengths but was overmatched by Joshua.
Miller also is taking an enormous step up in opposition and has never fought on such a large stage, which adds to the challenge he faces.
Joshua almost certainly will do to Miller what he has done to all but one of his opponents, which is to knock him out. In the process, he will have left a footprint in the U.S. and collected a nice payday. That would be a productive night even though he’d rather be fighting either Wilder or Fury.
Again, that will come. I’m guessing that he’ll face Wilder before he faces Fury. I think Wilder will beat Fury in the rematch, although I couldn’t be much farther from certain. I’m guessing that Wilder will have learned more from the first fight than Fury, which might allow him to land big punches earlier and more often.
Whoever wins, Joshua will be waiting. And this time, if the parties negotiate in good faith, I have to think an agreement will be reached because of the unique opportunity – it doesn’t get bigger than that – and enormous amount of money on the table. I can see Joshua vs. either guy filling up Wembley and sending British boxing fans into a tizzy or becoming a crossover fight in the U.S. if it lands in Las Vegas.
And, again, Joshua would beat either guy. He’s essentially as powerful as Wilder but a much better boxer. And while I still believe that Fury is the best pure boxer in the division, Joshua is a good enough technician to find Fury and hurt him. Win, win.
Then all the frustration Joshua will have endured in the meantime will be ancient history. Patience.
Michael Rosenthal is the 2018 winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades.