By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Jarrell Miller seemed completely loose Thursday.
The hilarious heavyweight joked about making Mariusz Wach pay for him not being able to eat cheeseburgers the past two months. The trash-talking Brooklyn native then mocked Wach for a having a “cute face” as he tried his best to keep the mood light during a press conference at PlayStation Theater in Manhattan.
Once the laughter died down, it was clear Miller has encountered the most serious situation of his boxing career. The 29-year-old Miller must get past Poland’s Wach on Saturday night in Uniondale, New York, to have any chance at achieving his dream of becoming a heavyweight champion.
There couldn’t be more at stake for the former kickboxer. If he beats Wach impressively in their scheduled 10-round fight, Eddie Hearn told BoxingScene.com on Thursday that Miller could become the next opponent for the hottest heavyweight in the world, Anthony Joshua.
Hearn’s company, Matchroom Boxing, promotes Joshua. The American division of the company, Matchroom Boxing USA, will make its debut on U.S. soil with an HBO “World Championship Boxing” tripleheader that’ll include Miller-Wach from the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (10 p.m. ET).
Hearn thinks Wach will test Miller more than some fans and media expect. Wach was one of Joshua’s primary sparring partners for the British superstar’s technical knockout victory over former champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London, thus Hearn is very familiar with Wach.
Hearn expects the 6-feet-7, 260-pound Wach (33-2, 17 KOs) to make Miller (19-0-1, 17 KOs) work much harder for this win than American Gerald Washington did when he met Miller on July 29 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The 6-feet-4, 298-pound Miller had his way with Washington (18-2-1, 12 KOs) before their one-sided fight was stopped after the eighth round on the Mikey Garcia-Adrien Broner undercard.
“Jarrell Miller is in a very, very, very tough fight on Saturday night,” Hearn said. “And actually, I feel like the Americans might not give Wach the credit the Europeans would. They know about Mariusz Wach – [lost on] points with Klitschko or [was] deep in a fight with Povetkin. So he’s extremely tough. In my opinion, he’s a top-15 heavyweight. He’s the first real test in Jarrell Miller’s career, in terms of someone who’s coming to win. Washington was a step up, but he didn’t have the desire that Mariusz Wach’s got.”
Wach went the distance with Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs), who won their 12-round heavyweight title bout by unanimous decision in November 2012. Russia’s Alexander Povetkin (32-1, 23 KOs) stopped Wach in the 12th round of their November 2015 fight, but referee Jay Nady stopped a match Povetkin was winning convincingly due to a nasty gash beneath Wach’s left eye.
Miller made another promise Thursday that he would become the first fighter to beat Wach by knockout or a technical knockout without assistance from a cut.
“I feel good,” Miller said. “I’m ready to go in there and put on the best performance of my life. And I guarantee you, I’m gonna stop Wach. Wach gonna get his behind Wached. … What I want you guys to do is to tune in to HBO November 11th. It’s gonna be phenomenal. It’s gonna be fireworks. You love Riddick Bowe, you love Mike Tyson, you love Shannon Briggs, you’re sure gonna love ‘Big Baby.’ Let’s get it, right?”
The 37-year-old Wach wasn’t in the mood for jokes Thursday.
“Doors are opening for me right now,” Wach said through a translator. “This gives me a big chance for the future. This will be a brutal fight. There will be a lot of blood. Let the best man win.”
An intrigued Hearn thinks Miller can be that man, but he’s not sure. That’s what Saturday night is about for a fun fighter that at least looks the part.
“You look at Jarrell Miller and you say, ‘Big heavyweight, can talk, looks good, explosive, from Brooklyn. The perfect package. But, is he elite?,’ ” Hearn said. “And we’re gonna find out on Saturday night, because if he can beat Mariusz Wach, he’s a world-class heavyweight. If he can destroy Mariusz Wach, he may be an elite heavyweight.”
Hearn hopes the athletic, skillful Miller emerges as an elite heavyweight because he is in need of appealing opponents for Joshua while he and handlers for WBC champion Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) build toward the most meaningful fight that can be made within the heavyweight division. If Hearn can’t arrange a partial title unification fight against WBO champion Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) or a mandatory defense of Joshua’s WBA title, Miller might be next for the 6-feet-6, 250-pound knockout artist from Watford, England.
“With someone like Jarrell Miller,” Hearn said, “I’m praying that he is the real deal because he can be a major asset to the division. He can be an Anthony Joshua opponent as well. And I think after this fight he’s gonna get a final eliminator for the world title anyway. So I think he’s two fights away from challenging for the world heavyweight title – Saturday and then one more. But it may come even quicker. If he makes a statement on Saturday, he could be Joshua’s next opponent.
“He knows what’s on the line and he looks good. He’s trimmed down, he’s lost weight, he’s taking it seriously. And it’s a big night for him. You talk about Danny Jacobs [in the main event], this is a big night for Jarrell Miller’s career on Saturday night. Because this is a tough fight. And I really think, you know, with the Jacobs-[Luis] Arias fight, Danny Jacobs is the big favorite in that fight because of his pedigree. I see Miller and Wach as a 50-50 fight, because of our knowledge of Mariusz Wach, in terms of what he’s done. He’s been sparring Anthony Joshua, he’s a world-class heavyweight and he’s motivated with his team. And they believe they’re gonna knock out Jarrell Miller on Saturday.”
Hearn clarified Thursday that Miller hasn’t signed a promotional contract with Matchroom Boxing USA, as Miller mentioned Wednesday. He has agreed to work with Miller’s co-promoters, Dimitry Salita and Greg Cohen, on the Wach fight and Miller’s next bout, which would make it easier to make a Joshua-Miller match at Barclays Center in 2018.
“That’s not the only fight, but that’s the obvious fight,” Hearn said. “Anthony Joshua against Jarrell Miller, at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, a Brit against a heavyweight from Brooklyn, in Brooklyn, for the world heavyweight title. That’s a big fight. But, it’s only a big fight if he can walk the walk. We know he can talk the talk. But as I said to him yesterday, the pressure for Jarrell Miller is, getting the win on Saturday will progress you to a world title shot. Looking sensational will get you there a hell of a lot quicker. So the pressure is on Jarrell to win and look good winning. And if he does that, I think he’s gonna be a major player in the division.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.