Ahead of WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s maiden voyage to the United States, all plans were thrown into turmoil as Jarrell Miller failed three drug tests, leaving Eddie Hearn scrambling for a worthy advisory. Ahead of their well-publicised card at Madison Square Garden on June 1st, the British pin-up has been linked with a plethora of potential opponents.
As the news of Miller’s incessant cheating was announced, the public began to speculate as to who will fill the void. Luis Ortiz, Michael Hunter, Kubrat Pulev, Adam Kownacki and British heavyweights Dereck Chisora and even Joe Joyce have been a few of the names banded around in the wake of Miller’s wrongdoing. That list has started to deplete as days have passed; Eddie Hearn ruled out the likes of Joyce and Chisora, with his preference being an American or at least a fighter competing across the Atlantic.
American-based Cuban, Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26KOs) took to Instagram to pull his name out of the hat and Bob Arum made it clear Bulgarian, Kubrat Pulev will not be able to take part, with impending sanctions from the California State Athletic Commission after an incident with a female reporter this month. Manager Keith Connolly ruled out Adam Kownacki nearly a week ago, leaving slim pickings for Joshua and Hearn’s search for June 1st.
A surprise name has emerged from the surrounding panic. Former World title challenger, Andy Ruiz Jr (32-1, 21KOs) has been placed as the favourite by many bookmakers after the Mexican-American dispatched of Alexander Dimitrenko this past weekend. Ruiz Jr has actively pursued the bout on social media and has gone as far to make a promotional poster for a potential fight with the unified pin-up.
Despite being a well-skilled and seasoned fighter, the casual fanfair Joshua generates will not be impressed with the physique of Ruiz Jr. However, Ruiz Jr does tick many boxes. He’s American for starters and you presume he will come to fight in alignment with his Mexican heritage, playing straight into Matchroom’s wishes of a spectacular knockout for the champion, live in Sky Sports and DAZN.
But is Andy Ruiz Jr worthy of such an opportunity? When comparing him with Jarrell Miller, you could argue, much more so. Ruiz Jr has fought for a World title, on foreign soil, in a fight that many believe he won. If the bout had taken place on American shores it’s very likely Ruiz would have become WBO World champion, meaning Joshua and Ruiz Jr would have already faced each other.
News is expected in the next day or two, with Michael Hunter also firmly in the frame after recently joining the Matchroom stable. Hunter’s aesthetics will be more appealing for the TV networks and fans tuning in, but it’s Andy Ruiz Jr who now appears in pole position to face Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden on June 1st.
Article by: Adam Noble-Forcey
Follow Adam on Twitter at: @Adam4cSports