Home SPORTS Daniel Dubois v Jarrell Miller: Could heavyweight tussle steal the show in...

Daniel Dubois v Jarrell Miller: Could heavyweight tussle steal the show in Saudi Arabia?

Dubois (left) has won 19 pro fights and lost two while the undefeated Miller has won 26 and drawn one

Boxing day lands a little early for fight fans this festive period, as Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder feature on the same bill in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

You might be forgiven for thinking their fights are the best the card has to offer.

But the undercard heavyweight tussle between Daniel Dubois and Jarrell Miller – arguably the most competitive bout of the night – has all the ingredients to steal the show at Riyadh’s Kingdom Arena.

Will Londoner Dubois make Miller – the undefeated, brash American who has failed multiple tests for banned substances – pay for his past mistakes in an event billed as the ‘Day of Reckoning?’.

Or will the unassuming, sometimes timid, Dubois suffer a second consecutive defeat, leaving his career in the balance?

With the seemingly bottomless pit of money being pumped into the sport by the Saudis, a stacked undercard includes two Britons in rather unexpected match-ups.

Ellis Zorro will take on the powerful former IBF cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia and Lyndon Arthur challenges WBA light-heavyweight champion and pound-for-pound star Dmitry Bivol.

Promoter Frank Warren says it will be a “magical” night for boxing, but the cloud of sportswashing continues to loom over Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the sport.

The kingdom has become boxing’s financial powerhouse, with the ability to put on history-making fights. Human rights campaigners, however, say sport is being used by the Saudi government to detract from long-standing reputation issues.

Despite this, it has not deterred boxing’s biggest fighters and promoters from partnering with the Saudis.

Should Miller be fighting on a huge card?

Sportwashing is not the only controversial aspect of this card, particularly when it comes to Miller v Dubois.

Miller failed tests before a scheduled world-title challenge against Anthony Joshua in June 2019 when three banned substances were found in his system.

He was due to fight compatriot Jerry Forrest a year later but once against tested positive for performance enhancing drug GW1516 and was subsequently banned for two years.

Miller – who also failed a test for methylhexaneamine as a kickboxer in 2014 – has insisted he is a clean athlete.

But should a boxer who has been found guilty of doping on multiple occasions be licenced to fight again? Particularly on such a high-profile card?

For all its rich history and following, boxing – simply put – is a dangerous sport. Fighters are aware of the risk attached to sparring and competing; Briton Conor Coghill – who suffered a bleed on the brain in October – the latest unfortunate example of the brutality of the sport.

Dubois, 26, says he accepted the fight in a heartbeat. His promoter, Queensberry’s Warren, feels bans for boxers who fail drugs tests are “generally not long enough” but had no reservations in agreeing to Miller as an opponent.

“I don’t police the sport. That’s up to the governing bodies and the various organisations,” Warren said.

“The fact of the matter is he has served his ban and he’s free to box. It’s a bit like if you go to prison, you serve your time and then the slate is supposed to be wiped clean, and that’s how we view it,” Warren said.

‘Big Baby’ Miller – now undefeated in 27 fights – returned to the sport after his ban and won his next three bouts.

Warren says all fighters have been tested by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (Vada) in the build-up to 23 December and Miller posted a letter from Vada on his social media informing him of a negative test.

Could Joshua-Miller happen and is Dubois’ career on the line?

At last month’s news conference in London, Miller provoked Joshua as the pair exchanged insults, attempted to trash talk with Dubois who offered little back, and then later confronted Eddie Hearn.

Miller and Joshua continued their verbal dispute in Riyadh on Monday after bumping into each other during media commitments.

Hearn – who once said no credible promoter should ever work with the Brooklyn boxer again – appears to have softened his approach.

“We had our choice words at the news conference,” he said. “I like Jarrell but it still doesn’t sit right with me. I won’t change my mind on that but if he’s sorry and he’s served his time how can you deny his opportunity?”

The Matchroom promoter also refuses to rule out Joshua-Miller in the future, adding: “Who knows in this crazy world of boxing?” – although whether Joshua would be willing to give Miller a payday is another matter.

Dubois too has plenty – potentially his career – at stake in Saudi after a crushing world-title loss to unified champion Oleksandr Usyk in August.

He was stopped in the ninth round by the Ukrainian, having floored Usyk in the fifth only for the referee to deem the punch a low blow.

“There is so much riding on this for Daniel. This is must-win.” Warren says. “He could have won his last fight but something was just lacking at the end and he needs to address that, and this is the fight to do it.

“Whether it’s self-belief or what, Daniel has to go out there and impose himself against Jarrell and get himself back to the big table. Otherwise he has a long road back.”

Dubois – who has won 19 pro fights, 18 inside the distance – added: “I’m ready to go, let out all of that emotion that I’ve built up from the Usyk experience and turn it into a positive. Come through this big show with a win.

“I want to punch holes in Jarrell, whatever it takes to win, for me it’s important to win in style and put all of that [Usyk loss] behind me.”

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