Anthony Joshua may not get to face Jarrell Miller for his United States debut at New York City's Madison Square Garden on June 1, but the WBA Super, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion would welcome Luis Ortiz as a replacement.
Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn have been left scrambling to find a possible alternative opponent after Miller tested positive for a banned substance on Wednesday. Hearn told IFL TV (h/t Metro's Coral Barry) Joshua already has an opponent in mind:
"(Ortiz) was the first name he gave me last night. I called him and just said, 'Mate, I've got terrible news, Miller's failed a drug test'. He didn't even sound that surprised. He said, 'Okay, who's next?' I asked who he wanted and he said absolutely anyone, no problem."
A Joshua and Ortiz fight is something Hearn would like to see, even if he has doubts it will happen: "Love that fight, that is an ideal scenario. That is a big fight. My feeling from their team is he won't be ready. I disagree with them. The argument that is a tougher fighter than Jarrell Miller."
Joshua isn't going to be short of fighters wanting to take Miller's place on the card, even with Hearn not keen to change the date. Barry noted how 16 boxers have volunteered to replace "Big Baby."
Miller returned an "adverse finding" from a sample submitted to VADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency on 20 March, per BBC Sport.
The 30-year-old accused Joshua of doping earlier this year, an accusation denied by the latter's camp.
While there still hasn't been any official word on Miller's status for the bout in New York City, he appears to be proceeding as if the fight will go ahead:
Hearn had already taken a similar line, indicating Miller's status won't alter the timeline of Joshua's first appearance on U.S. soil:
Getting the fight he and Joshua want may be a challenge, even though Ortiz doesn't have a bout scheduled. The 40-year-old is a heavy-hitting southpaw who is 31-1-0 as a professional, so he would likely give Joshua a stern test.
However, Ortiz is no stranger to anti-doping controversy. The fighter nicknamed "King Kong" was stripped of his mandatory challenge status by the WBA in 2017 after failing a drug test.
It was the second failed test of Ortiz's career and ironically cost him the chance to take on Joshua. The latter was being pushed by the WBA to give Ortiz a title shot.
Perhaps the motivation of finally finding out what he could do against Joshua can push Ortiz to be ready to fight in June. If not, Hearn should have no problem choosing an alternative from a growing list:
Michael Benson @MichaelBensonn
💥 Eddie Hearn has named Anthony Joshua vs Luis Ortiz as the first choice replacement for Jarrell Miller. He's had initial talks with Ortiz's camp, but got the impression they may not be ready. Adam Kownacki, Kubrat Pulev, Michael Hunter, Manuel Charr also in contention. [@IFLTV]
One fighter unlikely to take Miller's place if needed is familiar foe Dillian Whyte. Hearn doesn't believe the man knocked out by Joshua in the seventh round at the 02 Arena in 2015 will be ready:
Michael Benson @MichaelBensonn
🇬🇧 Eddie Hearn says Dillian Whyte can "100%" fight Anthony Joshua as Jarrell Miller's replacement on June 1st in New York, if he's serious about being ready for that date. Hearn has doubts because Whyte is training for July 13th, but he's willing to discuss it. [@IFLTV]
He may not know who will step between the ropes to square up to Joshua in June, but Hearn is determined to keep the fight on. Joshua sharing the same commitment is good news for those intending to cheer the 29-year-old on in person:
The ideal outcome would be for Hearns and Johsua to get the fight they want, meaning Ortiz gets to appear at the Garden.