The deal is done and unified heavyweight world titleholder Anthony Joshua is coming to the United States.
Joshua, the British superstar, will make his American debut by defending his three major world title belts against top contender Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York in a fight that will be streamed by DAZN, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Wednesday.
The fight, in the works for the past several weeks by Hearn, Miller co-promoters Dmitry Salita and Greg Cohen and DAZN, will mark Joshua’s first bout outside of the United Kingdom, where he is front page news and has regularly sold out stadiums, including drawing a British-boxing-record 90,000 to Wembley Stadium in London for his epic 11th-round knockout of former longtime unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko in the 2017 fight of the year.
Joshua is not only coming across the pond, but he will do so to fight in the hometown of the Brooklyn-born Miller.
“June 1, I am heading to the Big Apple and I plan to embrace the culture and leave with an appetite for more,” Joshua said. “I will be fighting Jarrell Miller at the legendary Madison Square Garden. It has been an honor and a blessing to fight at some of the best venues in the world at home in the U.K., not least Wembley Stadium. But the time has come to head across the Atlantic and defend my heavyweight titles in the USA.
“I am looking forward to taking on another challenge with a good boxer and a brilliant talker. It will be an exciting fight. I will leave nothing to chance and plan on dismantling Miller in style to make my mark.”
Joshua, who will be making his seventh title defense, and Miller will meet face to face at a news conference at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday to kick off the promotion and again at a second news conference on Feb. 25 in London.
Hearn has wanted to bring Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), 29, the 2012 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist, to the United States and will do so at an arena where a who’s who of heavyweight legends have boxed.
“When you look at the heavyweight greats that have graced the renowned ‘Mecca of Boxing,’ the names of Ali, Frazier, Marciano and Tyson stand firm, and June 1 will be a moment when the world will witness AJ’s turn,” Hearn said.
Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs), 30, has steadily worked his way up the ladder and emerged as a top contender. Four of his last five victories have come against former heavyweight world title challengers, including knockouts of Gerald Washington, Mariusz Wach and Tomasz Adamek, and a one-sided decision over Johann Duhaupas. In his last fight, Miller knocked out then-undefeated Bogdan Dinu in the fourth round on Nov. 17.
Miller has also been calling out Joshua, and they got into a heated confrontation at a Matchroom Boxing/DAZN news conference in New York in July. Now Big Baby will have his chance to fight Joshua.
“AJ is making a huge mistake coming over here to fight me in my own backyard,” Miller said. “He wants to announce himself on the American stage, but all he’s doing is delivering me those belts by hand. It’s dog-eat-dog in the ring and this dog has got a bigger bite. He’ll be leaving New York empty-handed. This is the fight that I’ve been chasing all my life, and on June 1 I’m going to achieve the thing I was born to do and win the heavyweight championship of the world. That punk AJ is standing in the way of my dreams, and on June 1 he’s getting run the hell over.”
Hearn is very familiar with Miller, having made deals with Cohen and Salita to have his previous four fights on Matchroom Boxing cards.
“I know how much he wants this fight and I know the belief that him and his team have in beating AJ,” Hearn said. “He is a mountain of a man with an incredible work rate, and he will get the chance to challenge [Joshua] in his backyard this summer.”
Joshua is coming off a destructive seventh-round knockout of mandatory challenger and longtime contender Alexander Povetkin before some 80,000 at Wembley Stadium on Sept. 22 in a fight that launched the DAZN service in the United States. His next fight was supposed to take place on April 13 at Wembley with British rival Dillian Whyte (25-1, 18 KOs), the expected opponent for a rematch of a fight Joshua won by seventh-round knockout in December 2015 in the bout before he claimed a world title in April 2016.
But Hearn had issues closing a deal with Whyte, and DAZN was also hoping that Joshua would fight in the U.S. so it could stream his fight on a Saturday night rather than a late Saturday afternoon as it did when it kicked off its service in the U.S. for the Povetkin fight.
So with Miller as a serious opponent, Hearn’s issues with Whyte, and DAZN agreeing to put up additional millions, Joshua came around to the idea of boxing in the United States.
Joshua had not shown much interest in leaving his home country — where he generates tens of millions of dollars for every fight — but there are those close to him who believe he warmed to the idea when he joined Hearn in New York in mid-December as Hearn co-promoted a fight between his fighter Rocky Fielding and Canelo Alvarez.
Alvarez knocked out Fielding in the third round to win a secondary super middleweight world title on Dec. 15 at Madison Square Garden, where there was a wild crowd of 20,112 on hand. Joshua was ringside and clearly enjoyed the electric atmosphere. He can expect a similar atmosphere because thousands of his British fans are expected to travel to New York for the fight.
“It’s been an eventful few months, but I’m delighted to finally announce that Anthony Joshua will make his American debut at the iconic Madison Square Garden on June 1,” Hearn said. “AJ has created an incredible ‘Lion’s Den’ atmosphere in the U.K., and we plan to bring that energy to New York on a card that will be stacked with British versus American talent.”
With the fight set for Madison Square Garden, it is likely that New York will be the epicenter of heavyweight boxing in the coming months because in addition to Joshua-Miller, Barclays Center in Brooklyn is the likely site of the expected rematch between word titleholder Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury. Their sequel, which is close to being finalized, is likely to take place on April 27 or May 18. There will be a significant public demand for the winners to fight each other for the undisputed title, especially if Joshua and Wilder emerge with their titles intact.