Anthony Joshua: Briton bites at Otto Wallin, Jarrell Miller and critics at star-studded news conference

Thu, Nov 16, 2023
By editor
5 MIN READ

Sports

Source: BBC Sport

A fired-up Anthony Joshua insisted he is not past his peak, told undercard fighter Jarrell Miller to “shut up” and vowed to become a three-time world champion in a star-studded and lively news conference at Wembley’s OVO Arena.

The British heavyweight, 34, will face Otto Wallin in Saudi Arabia on 23 December, while American Deontay Wilder, 38, takes on Joseph Parker in the co-main event.

Should both Joshua and Wilder be victorious next month, the former world champions could face each other in 2024.

“Nothing’s signed and sealed, but conversations are definitely happening,” Joshua told BBC Sport.

Wilder added: “It’s good to be in the same room with him. To see him face to face. It’s been a long time coming. I wish you nothing but the best bro. Hopefully soon we can get it on. I believe it’s going to happen, it’s about that time.”

Talks between Wilder and Joshua have been ongoing for years but rumours of a fight – hosted by the big-spending Saudis – took off over the past 12 months.

A huge poster featuring the 16 fighters on the card – with the tagline ‘Day of Reckoning’ – pulled focus inside the OVO Arena.

Joshua almost leapt out of his seat when provoked by Miller. The American, 35, tested positive for banned substances in 2019 and was withdrawn from a world-title shot against the Watford-born fighter, who then fought and lost to Andy Ruiz Jr.

“AJ didn’t want no smoke with me,” said Miller, who faces Briton Daniel Dubois next month.

But Joshua told Miller to “shut up”, called him a “clown” and warned him to “watch his mouth” as the expletive-laden verbal onslaught continued.

When Queensberry Promotions’ Dev Sahni, hosting the news conference, suggested Joshua and Miller may fight one day, the irked British boxer replied: “You ain’t my promoter to judge what I’m going to do in my career.”

Sahni later introduced Joshua, but the heavyweight insisted his promoter Hearn ask questions instead.

“I believe I will be three-time heavyweight champion of the world,” Joshua told Hearn. “I’m determined to win and I’m determined to get back to my peak, if that’s what they want to call it.”

Joshua maintained his serious demeanour when Wilder took the microphone – his gaze not leaving the Alabama fighter who was cordial and respectful in return.

“I don’t think I have to call out any opponent or names or whatever at this moment in time,” added Wilder. “At this moment in time, my mind is solely set on Joseph Parker. That’s it.”

Hearn said discussions to be a part of this card only began 10 days ago. Details of the news conference only emerged late on Monday, with Joshua saying he only became aware of his opponent “a couple of days ago”.

The undisputed heavyweight tussle between Fury and Usyk was originally pencilled for 23 December, but pushed back to February after Fury’s lacklustre performance against Francis Ngannou.

Turki Alalshikh, of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, and Frank Warren’s Queensberry have managed to rescue the date with one of the most impressive, and presumably expensive cards in boxing history.

Such is the lure and influence of Saudi Arabia in boxing, Hearn and Warren – who say they had never met before – were both sat at the same top table of a boxing event for the first time. Queensberry and Matchroom have never before come together for such a huge event.

“We all want the sport of boxing to grow,” said Hearn. “We have our rivalries, we’re competitive, but we also want the best opportunities for our fighters.”

The card is the latest high-profile sporting event to be hosted by Saudi Arabia, but the country’s increased involvement in global sport has proved controversial.

Saudi Arabia’s increased desire to host elite sporting events – including boxing matches, an annual Formula 1 race and a bid for the 2034 World Cup – has provoked scrutiny due to the country’s poor human rights record.

Nobody quite knew what to expect from the news conference. We felt the focus would firmly be on Joshua and Wilder, but it was the Briton’s demeanour and exchange with Miller which stole the show.

Nevertheless, it appears we are even closer to the much-anticipated Joshua-Wilder contest thanks to the staggering amount of money being pumped into the sport by Saudi Arabia.

The sight of Warren and Hearn shaking hands in the corridors of the OVO Arena was something to behold. The Saudis have managed to heal, temporarily at least, promotional rivalries and conflict which has dominated British boxing for too long – albeit only with the promise of an incredible amount of money up front for all involved.

Amid all the excitement and boxing firsts, it is worth noting there is no standalone super fight, although Saudi Arabia’s true impact on the sport is imminent.

A February Fury-Usyk fight for the undisputed title in Riyadh will be officially announced on Thursday.

If Wilder-Joshua can also be agreed, then Saudi’s status as a new boxing global powerhouse, with the ability to put on history-making fights, will be rubber stamped.

T

November 16, 2023 @ 8:26 GMT|

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