By Thomas Gerbasi
With WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder fresh from a knockout win over Luis Ortiz earlier this month, and WBA / IBF titlist Anthony Joshua about to unify with WBO boss Joseph Parker at the end of March, the last name on the lips of any of them is Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.
The unbeaten Brooklynite aims to change that.
“Those guys have found every way to not mention my name in any interview,” said Miller. “I feel like I’m the biggest dark horse in the game. Deontay wanted Ortiz, but we all know Ortiz is not 38, he’s 45 (Laughs), so everybody’s trying to stay away from the young bull. I’ve had exceptionally good performances, except my last fight, and all of a sudden people say I have no power, I can’t do this and can’t do that. But if that were the case, why is nobody calling my name? Why hasn’t Dillan Whyte, why hasn’t Joseph Parker, why hasn’t Joshua or Wilder? They know what I bring to the table. All I can do is keep working, keep knocking out whoever’s name lands on my table, and soon, they can’t run anymore.”
Miller doesn’t sound angry when he declares his intention to chase down the heavyweight belt holders. He’s been around the fight game long enough to know that while a little talk will never hurt when it comes to hyping a fight, taking it all personally will only drive you crazy. So as he prepares for his April 28 bout with former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas at Barclays Center, it’s all about leaving the kind of impression that will not just have him calling for a title shot, but the fans and power brokers as well. And the 29-year-old isn’t too picky about which title he gets a crack at.
“It’s whoever has the belt,” he said. “I’m working. Whatever comes, I’m gonna take it. I’m not a beggar. I’m a fighter and I want to get the best, I want to beat the best, and I want to be the best.”
Currently ranked at number three in the WBA, IBF and WBO, the likely target for Miller will be the winner of the Joshua-Parker bout, even though he’s been taking on past Wilder victims like Gerald Washington and now Duhaupas. There is no top 15 ranking for Miller in the WBC, another example of the ludicrous nature of such rankings, but at a certain point, a fighter needs a spot to get a shot. Miller is well aware of this, so he’s biding his time, confident that when he gets his opportunity, he’ll seize it and start to take over the game.
“I’m my own man and I’m my own brand,” he said. “I need them but I don’t need them. Once I get a belt, you’re gonna see how I turn up. Look at Joshua. They didn’t care who had the belt; they just found the weakest link. Because Charles Martin won that belt on a technicality, they were quick to challenge him and Charles Martin gave up the belt – he didn’t do anything in that fight. AJ didn’t really hit that superstar level until he won that belt. He didn’t care who he got it from or how they got it, he just had to get that belt. And once he did, that was a whole other level. So I don’t care who has it – I just want my shot at one and I’ll be able to get the rest.”
But back to that statement-making performance, one many expected to see when Miller faced another former world title challenger in Mariusz Wach last November. Yet despite stopping the Poland native in nine rounds, something Wladimir Klitschko couldn’t do, Miller underwhelmed, and he knows it.
“Mariusz Wach was supposed to be that fight, but he was tough and I wasn’t at my best that night,” he said. “So my main thing now is not having any excuses, just being a hundred percent focused and going to work and taking him (Duhaupas) out of there in style. Having fun, but destructive fun.”
Part of that fun is focusing on the fight and not his weight. After coming in at 283 ¼ pounds, his lowest in a year and a half, Miller plans on letting the scale read what it will next month. And with that concern out of his mind, he expects to get back to what got him to this point.
“My thing is this – everybody is built different,” Miller explains. “No two fighters in history have ever been alike or fought alike. Some have similarities, but if you watch heavyweights then and watch heavyweights now, they are getting bigger. And the main thing is, you don’t want to look sloppy or be sloppy. I can honestly say that in every one of my fights, I’ve never looked like a sloppy heavyweight. I never had the gut hanging out, I never looked like I was going to pass out between rounds. My last fight was one of the lowest weights I ever got to and it was one of my worst performances. So my main thing is going back to what the basics are, which is sitting down on my punches and having fun, being a big strong guy, coming forward and throwing 70-80 punches a round, more than any other heavyweight in the division.”
If he does that, betters Wilder’s 11th round finish of Duhaupas in 2015 and achieves that buzz in his hometown of Brooklyn, then maybe, just maybe, his prediction that the heavyweight champions won’t be able to ignore him anymore might just come true.
“That’s all we can ask for as fighters, the opportunity to show our skills, and I’m not gonna let it go to waste,” Miller said. “Come April 28th, I’m putting the hurt on somebody.”