By: Romer Cherubim
Anthony Joshua’s defense of his heavyweight boxing titles at Madison Square Garden, NYC on 01 June is mired in controversy. Firstly, his chosen opponent Jarrell Miller failed a drugs test for a banned substance. Then, the quest to find another fighter for the bout has been problematic.
Before Miller was selected as Joshua’s next opponent, Dillian Whyte was given a low ball offer to fight Joshua as his next defense, which Whyte rightly declined. It now emerges that Luis Ortiz was made a similar offer after Miller failed his drugs test, and Ortiz rejected the offer also.
The common denominator in all of this is Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn. The idea of the 01 June fight was to introduce Anthony Joshua to the American audience and make the fighter look good. It was not to arrange a contest, which was truly competitive. Fans across the world would therefore be cheated of watching a true challenge to Joshua’s reign as heavyweight champion.
The offers to Whyte and Ortiz were made unrealistically low on purpose so that the offers would not be accepted. As Whyte and Ortiz are genuine threats to Joshua, these offers were an elaborate ruse on the part of Hearn to make it look to the world that he was interested in his fighter competing against either Whyte or Ortiz, when that was the last thing in Eddie Hearn’s mind.
Further, this is not the first time that Joshua has not been able to fight his original opponent. On 28 October 2017, Joshua was supposed to fight the then number one ranked challenger by the WBA – Kubrat Pulev. However, Pulev withdrew from this fight late, forcing Joshua to compete against a lesser ranked opponent on the same day. The replacement Carlos Takam took the fight against Joshua on twelve days’ notice. Takam competed admirably. However, he lost. Now, the same thing is about to happen again. A challenger will be found at short notice, with not enough time to prepare for the fight against Joshua. Joshua will win and Hearn goes home a happy man.
Everybody connected with heavyweight boxing knows that Anthony Joshua is a cash cow for Eddie Hearn, which he intends to milk for all it’s worth. While this may be smart business for Hearn, it is not fair on boxing fans, some of whom pay lots of money to be ringside at Anthony Joshua’s fights.
Previously, a lot was made of Deontay Wilder’s apparent unwillingness to compete against the top fighters in the heavyweight division. Last year however, Wilder fought and beat Luis Ortiz and drew against the Lineal Champion Tyson Fury. In addition, Wilder is billed to face worthy challenger Dominic Breazeale on 18 May. Wilder has therefore dispelled this myth.
The sensible thing to happen is for the 01 June date for Joshua’s next fight to be vacated and an alternative date in September or October to be fixed for Joshua’s first defense of his titles in the US. However, that is not going to happen if Eddie Hearn has anything to do with it. In fact, Andy Ruiz Jr. has been mooted as a possible replacement to face Joshua on 01 June. Ruiz’s last fight was his win on 20 April against Alexander Dimitrenko.
If Anthony Joshua intends to be considered a true champion, he must assert himself with Hearn. Joshua must pay attention to the many fans he has across the world and give them the fights they deserve. Joshua must be ready to place himself outside his comfort zone and take difficult fights. This will test Joshua’s character. More than this, if he takes difficult fights with no unfair advantage, and wins them, it will prove that Anthony Joshua really merits being called Heavyweight Champion of the World.