The hunt for a late replacement to face unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua 22-0 (21) on June 1 was been narrowed down to two potential opponents, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
Joshua was scheduled to defend his WBA, IBF and WBO championships against Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller 23-0-1 (20) at New York’s Madison Square Garden before the undefeated American delivered adverse findings for three separate banned substances from a drugs test conducted on March 20.
Unsurprisingly, Hearn has shortlisted American Michael ‘The Bounty’ Hunter 16-1 (11) and Mexican-American Andy ‘The Destroyer’ Ruiz Jr 32-1 (21) for Joshua’s high-profile US debut.
“I like Andy Ruiz, I like Michael Hunter, I think they’re two guys who are two credible fights,” Hearn said to Seconds Out.
“Ruiz is a character, aesthetically he doesn’t look the best, but he’s a tough bastard, he’s Mexican, he’s got fast hands, he can let his hands go.
“Michael Hunter is extremely skilled, very difficult to beat. He’s on a great run, could be a massive banana skin.”
In 2016, Ruiz Jr went right down to the wire with Joseph Parker in a fight for the vacant WBO title in New Zealand, losing a razor-thin majority decision. The 29-year-old Californian has won three fights since, including a fifth round stoppage of Alexander Dimitrenko earlier this month.
Hunter, 30, is coming off a ninth round TKO of Russian giant Alexander Ustinov last November and is undefeated at heavyweight. His lone loss came on points to former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk two years ago.
The biggest challenge, according to Hearn, has been finding an available opponent for the right money at short notice.
“There are other guys as well, and I understand that you’re going to get a bumper pay day [as the replacement fighter], but I’ve just seen that it’s all about the money for them, and I’m not even sure they want it,” Hearn continued.
“I don’t want that, because this is a big night for Anthony Joshua. This is Madison Square Garden, there’s going to be 20,000 people there, we need to make sure this is a real fight.
“AJ is up for anybody, anybody.”