OVER the next couple of days heavyweight boxers and their representatives from around the world will descend on England to petition Eddie Hearn for a shot at the champion he promotes. Anthony Joshua is due to defend his unified WBO, WBA and IBF crown at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 1. But he is now in need of an opponent. Jarrell Miller was supposed to be challenging him but the American has failed a drug test, a doping violation that he is increasingly unlikely to be able to appeal successfully.

Hearn is looking to find a replacement and expects to be able to announce a new opponent next week. His first port of call was Luis Ortiz but there are plenty of other names (close to eight in fact) on the longlist, including American Michael Hunter.

“There hasn’t been offer made to anyone yet,” Hearn noted. “Hunter is definitely an option. I feel as though, fighting in America for the first time, it should be an American or someone who is known to the American market. So Ortiz, [Adam] Kownacki, Hunter. Those kind of guys are definitely in the mix. Ortiz was one of the first conversations… We’re talking but the initial reaction was not enough time. In the top 15, outside of Wilder and Fury, I don’t think there’s a fighter that we haven’t had a discussion with.

“The good thing with AJ is there isn’t one person I could say you’re fighting and he’d say oh no, don’t want to fight him, no.”

Miller has texted Hearn, to plead his innocence or at least deny that knowingly he used prohibited substances. Eddie did not reply. “You have to be responsible for that,” Hearn said. “Many fighters have accused Anthony Joshua of taking PEDs and they’ve all failed drug tests, the ones that have accused him. With Jarrell, I can’t believe you get this opportunity and you let it go… It’s your responsibility.

Anthony Joshua

“The one thing I will say is as disappointing as this is and as gutted as I am, it worked. I would never want Joshua to go in the ring with someone who’s cheating, who’s trying to get a physical edge. It’s dangerous… He could be injured, he could end his career, all because someone was cheating or taking illegal substances. So in that respect I’m happy that we had it in place and we found out now, rather than on the night. Something terrible could have happened on the night. You just don’t know.

“If you have better endurance than you should do, if you have more strength than you should do and all those things have been brought on artificially, you’re going to levels that could kill the sport. If something like that happened, you wouldn’t see me anymore. It would ruin me for life.”

He concluded, “Every time someone gets caught, we should all be a little bit pleased. As disappointing as it is, we should [think] good, they’re doing their job because we know so many people are cheating. Because if we don’t catch anyone, it’s not working. Because there’s a lot of people cheating.”