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Hearn: ‘Joshua’s opponent to be confirmed next week’

Anthony Joshua

By Tim Royner: Anthony Joshua’s next opponent for his June 1 heavyweight title defense of his IBF/WBA/WBO belts will be revealed early next week for his debut in the United States at New York’s Madison Square Garden, according to his promoter Eddie Hearn.

Many fans believe Hearn has tunnel vision right now, and is only interested in using 2012 U.S Olympian Michael Hunter as Joshua’s replacement.

Hunter is from the United States, he’s lost just once in his career to Oleksandr Usyk in 2017, and he’s signed with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA company. In other words, Hunter is the ideal opponent for Joshua to fight. Hunter is small for a heavyweight, doesn’t have much punching power or hand speed. Hunter is also new to the heavyweight division after moving up in weight from cruiserweight last year in June.

Hunter (16-1, 11 KOs) has three wins at heavyweight in beating these fighters: Martin Bakole Ilunga, Alexander Ustinov and Martin Bakole Ilunga. The latter fighter is currently working as a sparring partner to help Joshua get ready for his June 1 fight. At cruiserweight, Hunter looked trim and in shape. Since moving up to heavyweight, Hunter looks flabby, like the weight the weight that he’s put on in moving up to the division is fat. Hunter weighed 213 pounds for his recent fight against 42-year-old Ustinov last November. Hunter stopped Ustinov in the ninth round. Hunter is currently scheduled to fight next month on May 25 on Hearn’s DAZN card at the MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The 250+ pound Joshua would have a considerable weight advantage if he fought the 213 lb, flabby looking Hunter. For all intents and purposes, it would be a fight between an out of shape cruiserweight and a super heavyweight. Ignoring the actual fight itself, Hunter isn’t well known in the U.S. He didn’t win an Olympic gold medal in 2012, and he’s no different from any obscure heavyweight in the huge country.

Hearn says the guy that they’re looking to sign for Joshua’s fight is an American based fighter, which means it could be the likes of Michael Hunter, Luis “King Kong” Ortiz or Joseph Parker. American based heavyweight Adam Kownacki has been ruled out.

On Wednesday, unbeaten American Jarrell “Big Big Miller, who had previously been scheduled to meet Joshua on June 1, was rejected for his boxing license by the New York State Atheletic Commission due to his failed drug test by VADA on March 20. Without the license to fight in the State of New York, the 30-year-old Miller is officially out of the fight. This was Hearn’s baby so to speak. He’s the one that wanted Miller to fight Joshua rather than more experienced and arguably more dangerous fighters like Luis Ortiz. Hearn liked the big, slow 300+ pound Miller as Joshua’s opponent, and thought he was ideal guy to face him due to his ability to talk up fights. Miller’s resume was littered with old guys and journeyman level opposition. Hearn still wanted him.

“Obviously it’s a fight in America, so from our point of view, we would like an American challenger really,” Hearn said to Sky Sports News on Thursday. “I don’t think it will be Dillian Whyte. I’m not sure if Ortiz is going to be the guy.”

Hearn says he spoke to Luis Ortiz’s manager Jay Jimenez, who told him it’s too soon for Ortiz to take the fight. Further, Hearn says Ortiz has been offered to fight a rematch with World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in the near future, so he’s not sure if he’ll be able to take the fight with Joshua. Jimenez says he’s going to speak to Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) to see if he’s interested in facing Joshua. Hearn says he disagreed with Jimenez that it’s too short notice for him to step in and face the 29-year-old Joshua on June 1 in New York. Hearn is still hopeful that Ortiz will give the green light to take the fight with AJ. If not, then Hearn will continue to work down his eight-fighter list, which is actually shorter than that, given that Kubrat Pulev, Dillian Whyte and Kownacki have all been ruled out for the fight with Joshua.

In the latest news, Ortiz said to be ready and willing to take the fight with Joshua on June 1. It’s unclear if Hearn has been in contact with Ortiz’s manager Jimenez since their initial conversation. Hearn needs to contact Team Ortiz again and speak with them to hear what they’re saying now. Of course, we don’t know if Hearn is actually interested in using Ortiz as Joshua’s next opponent. If Hearn is just name dropping Ortiz’s name to given the boxing fans the impression that he tried to get him to agree to the fight, then he likely won’t bother calling Jimenez back up or answering his phone when he calls him.

Miller, 30, is reportedly saying he’s innocent, and he’s waiting on his B-sample to be tested. However, it’s unclear whether he’s still a viable option now that the New York State Athletic Commission has failed to give him his boxing license.

Hearn says he spoke to his fighter Dillian Whyte (25-1, 18 KOs) last night, and he plans on fighting on his own card on July 13 on Sky Box office. As such, Whyte’s not going to be an option as Joshua’s replacement opponent for Jarrell on June 1. Whyte, 30, wouldn’t be a great opponent anyway. He’s from the UK, and the casual boxing fans don’t know who he is in the United States. The casual fans don’t know who Joshua is either. That’s the problem.

If Hearn picked Whyte as Joshua’s opponent for June 1, Madison Square Garden would likely be filled with British boxing fans that made the long flight from the UK to New York to see those two fight. Hearn couldn’t count on U.S fans to go see the fight, because neither of them are big names in the States. Equally important is how it would effect the subscribers for DAZN. Joshua’s June 1 fight will be steamed on DAZN in the U.S. If Hearn picks Whyte as Joshua’s opponent, there’s not going to be a lot of interest from casuals in the States to see two foreign fighters they’ve never heard battle it out.

Joshua is better off fighting a U.S based heavyweight on June 1 rather than someone from his country. It’s not a good deal for Whyte to take the fight with Joshua. That match could make massive money in the UK if they stuck it at Wembley Stadium in front of 90,000 fans in London, England. In contrast, Madison Square Garden seats only 20,789 fans. Do the math. Whyte is better off waiting until Joshua comes back to the UK before fighting him front of a huge crowd of 90,000+ fans in London. Hearn is still counting on the World Boxing Council to rule in Whyte’s favor in ordering the winner of the May 18th fight between Wilder and Dominic Breazeale to fight Whyte next. Hearn has asked the WBC to consider making Whyte the mandatory for the Wilder-Breazeale fight, given that he’s been ranked at #1 with the WBC since 2017, and the sanctioning body has never ordered Wilder to fight him. Breazeale has been the mandatory since 2017, and he’s in the same boat. Only now the WBC is finally ordering Wilder to fight him.

“You go through the list: Luis Ortiz; Adam Kownacki; Michael Hunter; Manuel Charr; Agit Kabayel,” Hearn said of his list for potential opponents to fight Joshua on June 1.

Kabayel (19-0, 13 KOs) would be a good option for Joshua’s next fight if the contest were to take place in Germany where Kabayel is from. Kabayel has never fought in the U.S, and he doesn’t live there. Joshua vs. Kabayel wouldn’t attract fans in the U.S nor would it bring in subscribers to DAZN. It’s a mismatch, along the lines of Joshua’s other recent fights against the likes of Carlos Takam, 39-year-old Alexander Povetkin and the inexperienced Joseph Parker.

WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight champion Manuel Charr has volunteered to take the fight with Joshua on the 1st of June. However, Charr lives in Germany, not the United States, and he’s never fought in the U.S. If Hearn is serious about wanting Joshua to fight a U.S based fighter, then Charr doesn’t meet his requirements. Besides that, Charr hasn’t fought since 2017, which makes a poor option. He’s an aging, 34-year-old inactive heavyweight that most U.S boxing fans have never heard of or seen before. The casual fans didn’t see Charr’s last fight against 40-year-old Alexander Ustinov in 2017.

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