MA in Sports Journalism at St Mary's University

Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Sky Sports Head of Boxing Adam Smith on Anthony Joshua in America, his fight against Jarrell Miller and character changes

Anthony Joshua — OBE, MBE, four-belt heavyweight world champion — has become one of the biggest draws in boxing in only 22 fights. However, to be a true great, you must crack America.

Anthony Joshua will make his US debut against an unpopular choice in Jarrell Miller on June 1st. With fights against Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Dillian Whyte proving impossible, the opportunity to make his debut in America comes in timely fashion.

“We wanted the April 13th date with Dillian Whyte. From a Sky Sports perspective that would have been the perfect start to the year for us,” Sky Sports Head of Boxing Adam Smith said.

“However, Dillian didn’t take the financial offer given to him. They had to think quickly as Joshua hasn’t fought since September.”

It’s no secret who the public would like Joshua to fight, but Adam, with 25 years in the business, knows the difficulties arranging such fights can possess.

Credit – Adam Smith

He explained: “I’ve been in boxing a long time. I was around in the days of Holyfield, Lewis and Bowe. Bowe and Tyson never met, and Tyson against Lewis took 20 years to make. So these things don’t just happen overnight. If you put them all in a room, they would all want to fight each other providing the money is right. But it’s not as simple as that.”

This has received widespread scrutiny, both by those inside the industry and by fans alike, particularly towards Anthony Joshua. The 2012 Olympic champion is largely accused of avoiding harder fights to prolong the cash flow. This perhaps loses credibility, however, after the news that Wilder and Fury are postponing their rematch.

Adam said: “Frank Warren rolled a wonderful dice when he put Tyson Fury up against Wilder, but you can’t take anything away from Anthony Joshua’s achievements.

“Not only did he win gold at the Olympics, he’s won everything so far as a professional. He’s 22-0, with 21 knockouts. He took an early risk with Charles Martin. Everybody in hindsight says he was one of the worst heavyweight champions in history, but no-one wanted to fight the undefeated southpaw before that.”

Joshua’s resume has continued to grow since becoming world champion. Wins over Carlos Takam, Wladamir Klitchko, Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin make it difficult to argue that anyone in the division can match it.

Credit – Adam Smith

“If you look back Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis’ resumes by 22 fights, Joshua’s compares admirably to that. I think because Anthony Joshua’s got a lot of casual fans, he’s there to be shot at. People think he’s got the silver spoon,” Adam said.

“Yes, he has got the big promotional power behind him, and Sky from the word go. DAZN have entered the market too. He’s got a huge artillery behind him, but I think the way he’s conducted himself from start to finish has been absolutely professional.

“You can see why it’s not just boxing fans that love Anthony Joshua. It’s people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Everyone wants to see what happens with him.”

It’s for this reason that Adam believes the criticism Joshua faces is largely unjustified.

Adam elaborated: “He has four of the five world title belts. No-one says he’s definitely going to beat Wilder or Fury, but I think he’s got as good of a chance as beating them as anyone.

“AJ is the one that’s conducted himself wonderfully, the one that’s got the OBE, the MBE and the accolades there. He’s the one invited onto the sets of Graham Norton, not the others.”

While Joshua has manoeuvred himself into this position, both in his boxing status and celebrity, it could all change with an unexpected loss against Miller.

“You can’t write Miller off, but it is a big step up in levels for him. A former kickboxer with not much amateur experience — that worries me. He has victories over Tomasz Adamek, Mariusz Wach and Johann Duhaupas. But they’re not the grand names in the division and he’s probably had a fairly, not particularly challenging rise up,” Adam said.

It only takes a brief glance at history though to realise that a fighter can never be taken lightly, even when the odds are highly against them.

“Those straight forward fights Lenox Lewis had with Oliver McCaul and Hasim Rahman didn’t end up the way the majority of people thought it would. People also thought wilder would flatten Tyson Fury and it didn’t happen did it. That’s why you have underdogs who come to win.

The obvious threat that Miller possesses is the sheer size of him. Standing at 6’4” and weighing around 300lb, he represents a new challenge to Joshua. But Adam believes the American has more than just size in his arsenal.

He said: “Miller has decent hand speed for a guy his size. He’s not the biggest puncher but he’s got good stamina, a great chin and a big heart. From what we’ve seen so far, he also seems to have a lot of bottle.

“He wants to be a heavyweight champion. He’s come from the streets, a Brooklyn boy. He’s got this chance to change his life. He’s going to be handsomely paid now, but can you imagine if he can be the one that topples the golden boy of boxing? He’s sparred a lot of rounds with Wladimir Klitschko, which I used to watch in camp. Wladimir had a lot of problems with Miller’s style.”

Credit – Adam Smith

Despite the prevalent dangers, Adam believes it is a match that Joshua should come through in style.

“It only takes one punch in heavyweight boxing, but I should imagine he’ll take care of business and do it emphatically on the night,” he predicted.

One notable factor that has already emerged in the build-up to the fight is Joshua’s unusually aggressive character. Some may argue Miller is getting under his skin, though Adam believes it’s more Joshua’s inner fighter coming out.

“We saw with the Dillian Whyte build-up that AJ is a fighter, first and foremost. He has come from a background which has been troubled at times. Lennox Lewis once told me that he would always be the last man standing in a room. I think AJ’s got a similar menace to him.

“I think you’ve got to have that switch to be successful. Ricky Hatton was the same. Likewise, Katie Taylor, you couldn’t meet a nicer girl, a choir girl out of the ring, but once she’s inside it she’s a terror,” Adam said.

Ultimately, while Joshua’s bout with Miller is not the fight wanted by the masses, it provides an intrigue of its own. How Joshua will deal with a 300lb pressure fighter remains to be seen. But for Adam, it should be the same old story for Joshua.

Featured photograph/Adam Smith