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ANTHONY JOSHUA will do as everyone expects, defeat Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller in style … but it will have to wait until late 2019 or early 2020 when they have their rematch at Wembley Stadium. Because on June 1 at Madison Square Garden it will be Miller time. Admittedly it is not the most confident prediction I have ever made, but the signs are there and I expect it to come to fruition. No, I am not basing this on a hunch or feeling which is the worst way to predict the outcome of a fight. Rather there are too many intangibles favouring Miller which should not be ignored and which will lead him to victory. Here they are:
- MILLER HAS THE HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
Home court is the biggest advantage in sports. Although Joshua will have a couple of thousand British fans invading MSG, they will be drowned out by the vast majority making him feel like an outsider for the first time in his career. It might border on hostility at times, not so much because of the support that Brooklyn’s Miller will enjoy as much it being an anti-Joshua crowd. Deontay Wilder has built a following in New York, having fought there several times. His fans along with Miller’s will be quite vocal in hoping to see Joshua get his comeuppance. For the first time in his professional career Joshua is venturing into enemy territory.
- MILLER WILL DO MORE THAN JUST WEIGH ON JOSHUA’S MIND
What makes the heavyweight division different from any other is that there are no limits to weight disparities. For example: It would be unthinkable to have Terence Crawford give away approximately 70lbs to fight Wilder. Although Crawford is arguably the pound for pound king, Wilder’s physical advantages alone would make the thought of such a matchup ludicrous. Well guess what, that is approximately what Joshua will be giving away to Miller.
Miller has a decent chin as is. Couple that with the massive weight advantage and the evidence points to Joshua not being able to hurt the heavier man.
- REMATCH ANYONE
Credit Eddie Hearn for leaving nothing to chance by securing a rematch in the event Joshua loses. That does not mean the fighter and promoter lack in confidence, it is merely smart business to cover all bases. However, Joshua has to have it in the back of his mind that if he loses he can redeem himself shortly thereafter. For Miller though, it is now or never. He might very well show more resolve than Joshua if it should turn into a dogfight.
- JOSHUA IS NOT AS DOMINANT AS YOU THINK HE IS
Arguably no heavyweight in history was gift wrapped his world titles as conveniently as was Joshua. From there his performances have been good, but he has struggled quite a bit as well.
Joshua could not stop Joseph Parker who is far from elite. If not for a very questionable referee’s intervention, Joshua would probably have had to go the distance with Carlos Takam as well.
Even in the fights where Joshua ends it in impressive fashion he has not been completely dominant for the most part. Dillian Whyte had him hurt. So did Alexander Povetkin who was on even terms with Joshua until getting caught in the seventh round. Yes, the same Povetkin who was thoroughly outclassed by Wladimir Klitschko in his previous title try. And in the changing of the guard fight against the 41 year old Klitschko who was coming off of a two year layoff after losing to Tyson Fury, the outcome was still in doubt until Joshua landed the decisive punches in round 11. What all this tells us is that Joshua is a good champion, but a vulnerable one as well.
- MILLER IS THE HUNGRIER FIGHTER
Ha, ha, let’s dispense with the jokes about Miller looking the part. As for Joshua, I can’t forget a conversation I had with trainer Shane McGuigan during the time he was training David Haye. When I questioned Haye’s hunger, feeling he had become more businessman than competitor, McGuigan said he felt that was the case with Joshua. Whether that was true or not at the time matters little now, but lately Joshua has spoken about retiring as soon as he can. No less an authority than Lennox Lewis has questioned Joshua’s desire to build a legacy, inferring he only cares about the money.
- MILLER IS INSIDE JOSHUA’S HEAD
No doubt this is true. Normally Joshua is cool and composed, but at the press conference is New York, tried to get down to the challenger’s level of vulgarity. Joshua performs with commendable patience when he is on task, but the personal nature of Miller’s taunts might make him throw all that out the window and not box as smartly as normal. If Joshua can’t keep his emotions in check it would play into Miller’s strengths.
- MILLER IS THE BETTER INSIDE FIGHTER OF THE TWO
Yes he is. If Joshua does not control the action from the outside he’ll be in trouble. While Joshua is undoubtedly the more explosive puncher of the two his work rate will not be as great on the inside. Miller throws a lot of punches and will outwork Joshua at close quarters.
- MILLER GETS THE HARDEST POSSIBLE SPARRING IN THE GYM
Miller’s chief sparring mate is world-rated Adam Kownacki. The Polish heavyweight is known for coming forward and throwing punches non-stop. He and Miller often go all out which is extremely grueling work.
Joshua has quality sparring partners as well, but it is doubtful that they test him as much as Kownacki does Miller. If one of boxing’s truisms holds that fights are won and lost in the gym then it certainly favours Miller.
- JOSHUA IS OVERCONFIDENT
Joshua will train hard and be physically ready, but his contempt for Miller might interfere with the champion’s game plan. He might disregard his corner’s instructions with the intention of destroying Miller quickly. Joshua might not want to acknowledge that Miller can give him a hard fight, so you wonder is he mentally ready to fight through a crisis if one should arise?
- JOSHUA MUST FACE HIS PAST
When Joshua was younger he reportedly engaged in activities that he is now less than proud of. Joshua felt that he had moved past that in trying to conduct himself as a role model. However, Miller’s barbs have brought up Joshua’s sketchy past. For a man trying to portray a positive image, Miller’s insults can serve to distract Joshua in the lead up to the fight.
- PUBLIC PRESSURE
As much as Joshua might want to solely concentrate on Miller, the public and the media won’t allow it. He will be asked as many questions about Wilder and Tyson Fury as he will about Miller. In trying to make a convincing argument that he is not at fault for those matches having not yet taken place it might very well take his focus off where it should be, on Miller.
- MILLER IS FEARLESS
Last June, when Miller spoke at a function he let on that he is always in a rush and drives his car at very high speeds. For his sake and that of others, hopefully he has slowed down since then. However, it does reveal his mindset of not fearing a crash. Judging by how he has spoken about Joshua he does not fear him either.
- MILLER HAS HAD MORE FIGHTS
For all who claim Joshua is the far more experienced man, the fact is that Miller has had two more fights as a professional. He is also a year older than Joshua and undefeated as well. Statistically speaking, Miller belongs.
- MILLER ALSO HAS A CHAMPION’S MINDSET
Miller was previously a kickboxing champion. He knows how it feels to be at top level and will carry that confidence into the ring with him against Joshua. Vitali Klitschko did quite nicely coming from a kickboxing background to the world heavyweight championship. Precedent tells us that it can be done. This bodes well for Miller.
- THE HEARN FACTOR
The job of a promoter is to get their fighter the most money with the least amount of risk. In that regard Hearn has done a brilliant job for Joshua thus far. But although Joshua has echoed Hearn’s sentiments as to why a Wilder match has not been made, all the criticism directed towards him seems to have taken a toll. In a private moment perhaps Joshua has thought if he’s really as good as Hearn says then why hasn’t this Wilder business been taken care of by now.
- GARDEN JITTERS
Joshua has performed in front of massive crowds before, but this time it will be less about the number of people on hand than it will be about the location. This is his American debut, in the Mecca of Boxing of all places, Madison Square Garden. Many a ring legend struggled in their first fight at MSG. It was what the old-timers labeled as Garden Jitters. Joshua admits he is in awe of boxing in the world’s greatest arena. It might make Joshua try a little too hard which would tire him out by the later rounds.
- DOMINANT TEAMS OCCASIONALLY LOSE TO FAR INFERIOR ONES
Even juggernaut teams like the NBA’s Golden State Warriors lose once in a while to an opponent that is not considered in their class, so why shouldn’t the same happen in boxing? Fighters like Joshua are just as apt to have an off night as athletes are in other sports.
This prediction was not arrived at lightly, but before giving it I harken back to February 15, 1978 when Leon Spinks challenged Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight championship. No one was giving the seven fight novice Spinks a chance to upset a legendary champion like Ali. However, I thought he would.
What I saw was a young, energetic fighter that would press Ali for all 15 rounds and throw punches non-stop. Ali’s reputation and accomplishments so dwarfed the challenger’s that picking Spinks would have invited a great deal of ridicule if the match had ended as everyone thought it would. As a result, I sold out and played it safe, predicting Ali would win a reasonably close decision. I always have regretted not pulling the trigger on predicting that massive upset.
This fight reminds me of that one. Although Joshua is clearly the better fighter, Miller has the style to upend him on a given evening. Joshua will get off to a fast start and dominate before fatigue sets in. I expect him to then unravel. Miller by a 12th round stoppage is the pick here. Having learned from this, a refocused and smarter Joshua will stop Miller early in their rematch.