Anthony Joshua’s Boxing Multiverse, Part 2: ‘What if’ Jarrell Miller’s failed drug test never led to historic loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.?

It’s official fight week! Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia is another fork in the road for the former heavyweight champion. On the eve of a potentially career-changing fight, The Sporting News looks back on the four greatest moments that shaped the former heavyweight champion’s career and ponders ‘what ifs?’ with the 32-year-old boxing superstar.

Welcome to the Multiverse by Anthony Joshua.

By 2018, Anthony Joshua had established himself as a huge star overseas. However, he had not yet become a household name in the United States.

That was to change when Joshua was set to make his US debut against undefeated Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller on June 1, 2019 at Madison Square Garden. Miller’s antics at a DAZN launch event the previous year made this a heated rivalry that drew significant interest in the States.

That is, until “Big Baby” thwarted AJ’s big plans to finally win over American boxing fans.

On April 17 – just six weeks before fight night – the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association notified both camps that Miller had tested positive for a banned substance. More tests were conducted and more prohibited substances were found. Apparently, Miller was removed from the fight and lost a career-high payday.

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However, Joshua wasn’t interested in canceling his US debut. After all, it became the highest-grossing boxing presale in Madison Square Garden’s history, an opportunity certainly not worth wasting — even against an inferior opponent.

Joshua needed someone to fight and Andy Ruiz Jr. stepped in.

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The fight was announced on May 1st, just a month before the two fighters would step into the ring. The chubby Ruiz finished as a 10-1 underdog and was seen as cannon fodder for the muscular, undefeated unified heavyweight champion.

And then disaster struck.

Ruiz broke off the canvas after being knocked down in the third round and shocked the world by scoring a knockout in the seventh round. Joshua would later reclaim his titles in a rematch, but the indestructible aura was gone. Against a far weaker opponent he should never have fought for, Joshua’s first chance to make a statement on American soil vanished.

But what if Miller failed the drug test and the fight went as planned?

Despite being a massive underdog, Ruiz Jr. was a skilled fighter with quick hands, an exceptional chin and his only loss to Joseph Parker was highly controversial. Miller had no such awards. Despite being undefeated, he was never tested and his portly size made his cardio capabilities questionable.

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With Joshua already spending an entire camp focusing on Miller, he likely would have left MSG with a win and possibly a knockout that would have set social media on fire.

A star would be born in the United States who would help bring heavyweight boxing back to prominence.

And then what?

Well, Joshua probably would have done something similar to Tyson Fury, where he would have split his time fighting in the US and UK while finding ways to use his newfound star power outside of boxing. It could have been acting, modeling or any other opportunity, but Joshua’s marketing appeal would have been gold in the United States. There really is no telling how big he could have been.

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Anthony Joshua in a Hollywood blockbuster action movie? Secure. What about Anthony Joshua as a model for Rihanna’s Fenty Savage? Why not? Anthony Joshua in a Beyonce video? Of course!

Joshua could have returned with a fight in Los Angeles or Las Vegas in December 2019 before returning to the UK. The potential for Joshua was limitless and his ability to bring boxing into the mainstream would have been profound.

It’s not too far out of the realm of possibility that Anthony Joshua would have become the biggest boxing attraction in North America, rivaling even Canelo Alvarez.

But the appeal was knocked off by Ruiz Jr. and we haven’t seen Joshua in the States since.

It’s possible Joshua Miller would have stopped in June 2019, leading to a showdown with Deontay Wilder for the undisputed heavyweight championship. But Joshua was keen to build his name in the United States and it was all going to start with Jarrell Miller.

Depending on how the rest of the heavyweight class fared, Anthony Joshua could very well have gone undefeated for the next few years. But the KO loss to Ruiz tore a crack in the armor of someone thought to be indestructible, changing his career forever and leaving fans, pundits and promoters wondering, “What if?”.

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