By Thomas Gerbasi
This wouldn’t be the case for everyone, but it’s almost fitting that Jarrell Miller wants to do an interview at 11pm on the Monday of fight week.
“The main thing is relaxing,” he laughs. “You’re not in the club, you’re not hanging out, you’re at home chilling.”
It’s the kind of thing you would expect from Broadway Joe Namath, Mike Tyson or any other sports star that made their name in New York City. And they don’t get much more New York than “Big Baby” Miller, a young man on the rise in the heavyweight division that has more to offer his hometown than just wins and knockouts.
“Outside of being a talented fighter, you’ve gotta have that star power,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to walk into a room and light it up. The fans gotta want to see you in and outside the ring.”
If you haven’t seen the unbeaten former kickboxer in the ring, you’ll get your chance this Saturday when he faces Gerald Washington at Barclays Center in his hometown of Brooklyn.
As for everything else, there are plenty of interviews and YouTube clips out there where he rips into the big guns in his division and declares that his day is coming. That’s just part of it. The rest has to be seen when the gloves are off and Miller is at the Figueroa-Guerrero card in Long Island a couple weeks back or at last Saturday’s UFC event in the same venue.
In those situations, Miller has a presence, an ability to draw eyes to him as a future star in a sport that can always use them. Especially in New York.
“It takes a small group of guys to really put it back on the map,” he said. “We’ve got (former middleweight champ) Danny Jacobs, who’s doing a lot of big things in New York right now on a positive note. He’s more of the clean-cut, good looking guy who don’t talk too much smack. On the other hand, that’s not me. (Laughs) I don’t mind playing the villain. Everybody wants to play the humble role, but we all know that boxing is not for the humble. Outside the ring, we’re all humble and all nice guys, but in that ring, you have to be a monster, you have to be a killer. I tell people that all the time. I’m the nicest person you’ll ever meet. But once I get into that ring, it’s do or die. My life is on the line and I’m gonna take you out.”
And what’s scary about Miller is that he isn’t in a rush to do it. If he can get you out of these with a few punches in a few minutes, that’s cool with him. But if an opponent doesn’t fall immediately, he’ll wait until it’s time. Then he’ll lower the boom. Having said that, he admits that we haven’t seen everything he’s got yet.
“There are so many styles to me that I never had to go to a Plan B or a Plan C because nobody can get past Plan A,” he said. “I’m doing what I do best, and that’s going in there to cause havoc.”
That havoc comes from a place he visits every time he’s in the ring, and if it looks and sounds violent, that’s an accurate description.
“It’s a lot of built up stuff from growing up,” Miller said. “I kinda put it in a box. My grandmother told me to put it away, and when you’re scared of something, make a mental note. So I made a mental note of everything that pissed me off and I put it in a box. And it actually became fuel for when I got in the ring. It’s like a light switch, and the minute that bell rings, I let everything that ever pissed me off from the time when I was a kid come out.”
At 29, life is getting better for Miller as he climbs the heavyweight ladder, but as with anyone, there are those moments that are worthy of getting put into that box, and for “Big Baby,” that was the promotional issues that kept him on the sidelines for almost a year after his last bout in August 2016 against Fred Kassi. But with those issues solved, it’s full speed ahead.
“It was definitely frustrating, but God has a plan,” he said. “I kept it positive, and when you’re positive, the universe works in your favor, and the first objective is ripping Gerald Washington’s head off.”
Sounds like a man hungry to get back in the ring and get back to the winning belts business. And that’s belts, not belt.
“Me winning one belt is not gonna do it,” Miller said. “I gotta get all the belts and get to a superstar level to really make a change. So the motivation is definitely there and I’m a warrior. I like competition and it fuels me.”
Is Washington the kind of competition to push him, though? He should be, considering that he challenged Deontay Wilder for the WBC title in February and holds wins over Eddie Chambers and Ray Austin. Miller has respect for his foe, but a test? He’s not so sure.
“Gerald Washington is not a bum,” he said. “I don’t see nothing too special about him, but he’s not a bum, either. Deontay fought him and it took him five rounds to get him out, so I would definitely like to get him out earlier than Deontay to prove a point, but I’ve been 11 months away from the ring and maybe there will be some ring rust, I don’t know. But I feel great, I feel strong, I’m in shape and I know when people see me, they’re going to be like, ‘Holy crap, this is a totally different Big Baby than we saw in the Fred Kassi fight.’ And it’s not going ten rounds, I guarantee that.”
Broadway Joe would be proud.