Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has pledged that his American debut will go ahead as planned at Madison Square Garden in six weeks’ time after his original opponent Jarrell Miller tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing steroid.
The positive result for the drug GW1516 came from a random urine test which the unbeaten Miller had taken for the Nevada-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on March 20. Joshua had also undergone a similar test.
Miller, of Brooklyn, who was set to earn a career-high $6 million (£4.6 million) purse to challenge the Briton for three of the world title belts, was denied a licence to fight on Wednesday evening and replacements for Miller are being sought.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, told Telegraph Sport: “We are talking to other potential opponents. The first person I called when I learnt the news was Anthony, and he said ‘I’ll fight anybody. The event goes on. Just get me an opponent’.
“We had a dozen calls from fighters wanting an opportunity and we will go through the serious ones. Anyone in the top 15 in the world is acceptable, but the higher ranked, the bigger the name, the better.
“In an ideal world, we would prefer it to be an American opponent, but there are 17,000 tickets sold and 10,000 Brits are flying over. How many of those were coming to watch Miller?”
Former world title challenger Luis Ortiz or Polish fighter Adam Kownacki are potential replacements, but even Joe Joyce, the Olympic silver medallist and Commonwealth Games gold medallist put himself forward, although he is only 8-0 as a professional, as did Joseph Parker, who lost his World Boxing Organisation belt to Joshua in Cardiff a year ago.
“I’m ready to go,” Parker said on Wednesday. Another possible opponent is Londoner Dillian Whyte, who is ranked fourth with the World Boxing Association, though turned down a fight with Joshua scheduled for Wembley Stadium on April 13, saying he was unhappy with the deal and the timings. “Is Dillian Whyte in the mix? I don’t think so…” Hearn said. “Our plan is for him to fight in July.
“If he wanted the fight on June 1, AJ would take it. We are obviously moving into action and we are going to have a replacement standing by.”
Meanwhile in New York, Amir Khan went head to head with Terence Crawford, the World Boxing Organisation champion, at a news conference ahead of their welterweight clash at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Khan said that he is “inspired” by the support of the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard, revealing to Telegraph Sport that he abstains from sex for six weeks leading into his fights. Some boxers believe abstinence helps them retain vim for training and the contest itself.
“I’ve always been like that, I like to be getting into fight mode without thoughts of that, so from about six weeks out there is no sex,” said Khan. “It’s something different boxers do differently. I’ve even had my own apartment training for this fight. I think staying away from sex just keeps you more in your animal spirit side, retaining something inside you.”