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WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will fight one of the following on June 1 at Madison Square Garden, New York: Michael Hunter, Andy Ruiz Jnr or Manuel Charr.
The shortlist, which originally included Luis Ortiz and Adam Kownacki, is now seemingly down to just three and one of them, Hunter, still the front-runner, says he should get the gig because he is not only the best of those available but because he is better than Jarrell Miller, the drug cheat whose transgressions have created the void.
“It’s an exciting time to be Michael Hunter,” he told Chris McKenna of the Daily Star. “I’m just patiently waiting. I’m ready to take it if they give me the opportunity. I’m definitely taking it. I just hope I get it. Eddie Hearn and Joshua definitely know I’m ready to take the fight. I’m definitely taking it. I just hope I get it.
“They have to pick the right opponent and that is what I am. Some of these guys don’t want to fight. I’m a rising star, I work with Matchroom and DAZN, so I’m a better fit than the others anyways.”
What makes Hunter a better fit than the others are the following details: one, he is signed with Matchroom Boxing, Joshua’s promoter, which presumably makes it an easy fight to make; two, he is a small heavyweight at six-foot-two and, though skilled, is deemed a safe option by most good judges; three, he has yet to be stopped, which always helps the selling of a fight, and has lost only to Oleksandr Usyk, who, while a natural cruiserweight, is bloody brilliant (no shame there then).
Meanwhile, from Hunter’s point of view, a break has been earned following a couple of good upset wins over Martin Bakole in England and Alexander Ustinov in Monte Carlo. Hunter, 30, a one-time cruiserweight, was considered the fall guy for both yet showed there is no substitute for skills and smarts.
“I wouldn’t be looking for this fight if I didn’t think I could win,” said ‘The Bounty’ Hunter, 16-1 (11).
“My experience and IQ would win me this fight. If they give me the fight the whole world is going to have a different view of me. I guarantee that.
“I will be a tougher challenger than Jarrell Miller. Anthony was able to prepare for the problems that ‘Big Baby’ would present.
“He needs more than six weeks to prepare for what I can do and to figure me out. I would pose a lot more problems.”
Before he gets around to posing problems, Michael Hunter first wants the opportunity. He wants the opportunity because he seems to genuinely believe he has something Joshua has yet to see in the ring. More than that, he wants the opportunity because the opportunity alone will make the American a millionaire, setting him up for life.
It’s why, frankly, they all believe they are the right man for the job. It’s why they all believe they can win.
It didn’t take long for Kell Brook and Amir Khan to find themselves again mentioned in the same sentence following Khan’s stoppage defeat to Terence Crawford on Saturday (April 20).
The two Brits, for so long linked to a stadium fight in the UK, have so far managed to keep apart, but, thanks to Khan’s latest defeat, may be ready for one last push to get the fight over the line.
Former IBF welterweight champion Brook, now competing as a junior-middleweight, has this week responded to comments Khan made previously questioning the Sheffield man’s sexuality. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, the married father of two said: “He was coming out with so much, making all these allegations, it was terrible. My family had to hear that, and he was making these rumours up.
“He should get a smack because he went all over the line. There’s banter, but that went over the line. With what he’s been through and what he’s done, for him to make those things up, I can’t believe he did that. This is a sport and he’s gone way across the line.”
As well as questioning Brook’s sexuality in the interview in question, Khan also alleged Brook’s nightclub stabbing in 2014, months after he became world champion, occurred because Brook put himself in a comprised situation.
“How much confidence does this guy have?” Khan, the former world super-lightweight champion, said. “I’ve been told by numerous guys that he’s not a confident guy. There’s talks about him being gay. If you’re a real man, come out and say, ‘Yeah, you know, I’m gay. It is what it is.’ Come out and tell the truth. Speak out about it. Don’t be afraid.
“If he is a confident man, he needs to tell the world who he really is. Because people want to know about him. People want to know, ‘Who is this Kell Brook?’ Come out and tell us what happened. What happened when you got stabbed that time? Was it because you tried it on with some poor guy? You tried to get it on with some poor guy? These are things I’m being told from his own camp.”
There’s certainly enough bad blood and story-line to make Brook vs. Khan or Khan vs. Brook a thing, even in 2019. But whether the ambition of either fighter is as strong as their dislike for their opposite number remains to be seen. For the potential loser, there can be no worse sadder note on which to go out, and it’s often this fear that stops many natural fights between bitter rivals from happening.