Anthony Joshua Needs A New Opponent But It Won’t Be Joseph Parker ( … Or Junior Fa)

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We haven’t heard much from Joseph Parker lately. Since bouncing back with a routine win in December, knocking out Alexander Flores in the third round in Christchurch, old mate’s been laying pretty low.

He’s sort of had to, to be fair. Consecutive defeats to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte have left his career certainly not in any kind of drastic state (losing to Flores would have done something like that but that fight wasn’t even close) but definitely in a place where he can’t be dictating terms. He’s not a world champion right now. He wants to be fighting at the top of the division but he’s lost the leverage of that title belt so he’s just another challenger right now. That means staying active. It means being flexible. It might means taking risks too.

Anthony Joshua was supposed to be fighting Jarrell Miller on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York. His debut fight in the United States and without doubt a precursor to a unification scrap with Deontay Wilder down the line. Maybe at the end of 2019 or maybe in 2020. It probably should be happening sooner but it’s boxing, what can you do?

Even Deontay Wilder’s in a tricky situation at the moment where he’s going up against Dominic Breazeale at Barclays Centre in New York, that one May 18. A mandatory defence. (Both those dates are local ones, btw. In Aotearoa they’d be late the next morning). Breazeale is on an impressive three-fight win streak since losing his first title challenge against Anthony Joshua in 2016. He out-slugged Joe’s mate Izu Ugonoh in a classic in 2017, before stopping Eric Molina and Carlos Negron to become the mandatory WBC challenger. But Wilder is gonna crush him and would probably rather see that Tyson Fury rematch instead. Boxing politics, as usual. Wilder vs Fury 2 might have to wait a few more months and that pushes Wilder vs Joshua or Fury vs Joshua even further back.

Hence there’s not a lot of room for Joseph Parker at the very tip top of the division at the moment unless something weird happens. Well, something weird has happened because Jarrell Miller was supposed to be making his ascent into the peak of the heavyweight class with this fight. One of the real up and comers in USA heavyweight boxing, the man they call Big Baby in a New York native with an undefeated record, although his best wins were against Mariusz Wach, Tomasz Adamek, and Johann Duhaupas. This was gonna be his biggest pay day by far, the fight that put him in contention… and he pissed something blue.

Miller has denied it all and they’re waiting to see how the B sample comes back before making any decisions, but he’s been denied a licence to fight by the New York authorities and it’s extremely rare that those things get overturned. Not impossible but extremely rare. Anthony Joshua’s still fighting on that same date but now it looks like he’s gonna have to audition for his supporting lead.

Eddie Hearn to Sky Sports UK: “"Obviously it's a fight in America, so from our point of view, we would like an American challenger really. I don't think it will be Dillian Whyte. You go through the list: Luis Ortiz; Adam Kownacki; Michael Hunter; Manuel Charr; Agit Kabayel, the European champion who beat Derek Chisora. There's probably seven or eight guys I think would fit the bill. Being an American debut, in an ideal world we would like it to be an American, or someone that fights in America. We're going through that and we're going to be working hard in the next couple of days. There will be an announcement from us in the early part of next week, locking in Anthony Joshua's next opponent.”

So…

Nah gotta chill on that one, aye. Joseph Parker might like the idea and he might technically be available but that doesn’t make it a feasible fight. According to reports, Parker recently rejected the chance to fight Dereck Chisora (who is taking on German heavyweight Senad Gashi this weekend) because there wouldn’t be enough time for a full nine-week camp so taking on Anthony Joshua with barely five weeks to prepare? That’s something you do at the end of your career as a gamble. Parker is still younger than most of these other contenders so he can afford to take his time.

But more pertinently, he’s just not on Eddie Hearn’s radar. We’ve seen that fight once before and it’s not what Hearn wants for Joshua’s USA debut. Another 12-round grueller with Joshua fighting within himself to defend his title is a bit of a mud introduction to the yanks. He’d rather have an American opponent who can bring in the crowds, before he knocks him out and gets on all the highlight reels. Joseph Parker has some star power but not in the States. He doesn’t tick either of those boxes.

We’ll find out in a few days who Joshua’s battling next. It sounds like Luis Ortiz would be the premier option, he’s definitely the best dude left available, but even Ortiz’s manager says it’s too short notice. Adam Kownacki would be a pretty funky one, he’s based out of Brooklyn these days although there’s a bit of a problem since he’s already signed a contract to fight one of Al Haymon’s lot next. Kubrat Pulev isn’t an option since he’s still suspended for kissing a reporter after his last fight. Manuel Charr the same because he can’t fulfil the VADA requirements at such short notice.

Ortiz might overrule his management and tell them to make the fight regardless. Otherwise Las Vegas native Michael Hunter could be one that wants to chuck his hat in the ring, he’s ranked by both the IBF and WBA and has just one defeat in his resume - a unanimous decision two years ago to Oleksandr Usyk.

One thing’s for sure: with a title shot on the line, Eddie Hearn’s probably got a jam-packed voicemail right now. We already know that Lou Di Bella has been on the phone to make sure Eddie and AJ know that Junior Fa’s ready and willing…

Obviously that’s a bit of a leap for Fa. Not even sure he’s ready for Parker, let alone Anthony Joshua. But he is one to take seriously these days as he’s gone about his work pretty sharply, looking good with back to back first round KO wins, one on the last Parker undercard against Rogelio Omar Rossi and the other in Ohio last month against Newfel Ouatah. He’s ready to step things up as a heavyweight… but going from Newfel Ouatah to Anthony Joshua is a stretch of karma sutric proportions.

As for Joseph Parker, that Dereck Chisora fight seems like a goer down the line, just a matter of whether he wants to get busy in the meantime. It sounds like he won’t, instead taking the first half of this year off entirely, as he and the team ponder their long-term prospects as both Eddie Hearn and Bob Arum are open to offering multi-fight deals that’d incorporate their broadcast preferences. Hearn with DAZN and Arum with ESPN. Of course, smash up Chisora and there’s an extra zero on that cheque so maybe it’s best to sit tight for a while longer.

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