Nothing stimulates boxing like an exciting heavyweight division. Even a scrap between second tier heavyweights can be somewhat exciting, as we saw between Jarrell Miller 19-0-1 (17) and Gerald Washington 18-2-2 (12) this past weekend on the Mikey Garcia-Adrien Broner undercard. Washington weighed in at 248 pounds for the fight and looked like a stick-man while trading punches with Miller who weighed in at 298 pounds.
The Miller-Washington clash represented a poor man’s Ali vs. Frazier matchup in a crazy way. Miller, who spotted Washington height and reach, needed to wage the fight on the inside in order to make his bigger power a deciding factor. Washington needed to keep Miller outside and at the end of his jab. Usually in a style clash between fighters at this level (those on the verge of cracking the top-10), the combatant who needs to make the fight a war or close to a street fight gets his way if he pushes the issue. And that’s how the Miller-Washington fight shook out. With the exception of the first round, Miller was able to force the fight and pin Washington against the ropes and work him over. Washington tried to keep Miller off with his left jab and pot shot right hands, but Miller seldom changed his expression when he was hit. By the fourth round Washington was spent physically and all but spent psychologically. During the last four rounds before the bout was stopped after the eighth, Miller controlled the action and thumped Washington to the head and body without much in return.
When it was over, Miller’s size and weight, along with his consistent bell-to-bell pressure, were too much for Washington to contend with. Washington isn’t a stiff, so “Big Baby” Miller, like the older version of George Foreman, has to be taken seriously.
Some look at Miller and see a fattie and that’s short-sighted. Throughout boxing history, and as recently as the 1980s into the 1990s, there have been some outstanding heavyweights who let their weight go who could fight….fighters like Tim Witherspoon, Greg Page, Tony Tubbs, and James “Buster” Douglas, just to name a few. Witherspoon came closer to beating Larry Holmes when Larry was near his prime than anyone else. Page and Tubbs won a piece of the title and scored some big wins along the way and Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson who was only 23 years old, undefeated, and in his prime.
Notice I didn’t mention Foreman, who shook a prime and undefeated Evander Holyfield before dropping a decision to him. Three years later Foreman KO’d Michael Moorer who won the title from Holyfield. Many got on Foreman about his weight during his second career and he listened for exactly one fight. George was 235 for his bout against Dwight Muhammad Qawi. He won by a 7th round TKO and said after the fight he felt weak at the weight and resided around 250 for the remainder of his very successful comeback. The point is, you don’t have to be body beautiful to be a good heavyweight.
“Big Baby” Miller is a player in the division because his background is fighting, as an amateur boxer, K-1 fighter and as a professional boxer. Miller is a big guy and he’s not jiggly fat. His mass walking down his opponent is taxing both mentally and physically. And if you can’t punch hard enough to give him trepidation about bringing the fight to you, you’re in trouble…as we saw during the Washington bout. At 295, Miller is very formidable because the guy is more than just big and heavy. If you noticed, when Washington tried to rope-a-dope him, Miller found and created openings with sound fakes and feints. After getting worked over on the ropes, Washington realized he had to move or he would be bludgeoned. Well the strain of moving wore him out and by the time the eighth round was winding down he was a sitting duck for almost every bomb Miller sent his way.
Sure, I’d like to see Miller drop 10-15 pounds and fight with more urgency. However, he cuts off the ring well and is quick-handed, is lighter on his feet than he looks, and has a good variety of punches. I don’t think Washington came close to hurting him to the head or body. The one thing I’d say that’s a little overrated about him is his punching power. He’s certainly no George Foreman, not even an older Foreman……but he is heavy-handed and I doubt he has to land in bunches to get an opponent to decide he had better move and get some distance between them.
Think of it this way….aside from Anthony Joshua (I’m not considering Wladimir Klitschko because he’ll be retired after he fights Joshua in November) there’s not one fighter in the heavyweight division who has a chance to be great. With the exception of Joshua and maybe Luis Ortiz, who has a big enough jab to impede Miller’s aggression? Not Deontay Wilder, nor Joseph Parker, nor Alexander Povetkin. That translates into him being able to bull most of the fighters in the division into the ropes and when he gets them against the ropes, they’re in his wheelhouse. Fighting him with your back against the ropes makes it hard to get set and hit with any real power while at the same time trying to make him miss.
Perhaps there are a couple guys in the division besides Joshua who can box him the way Holyfield and Tommy Morrison boxed Foreman. But Miller is 29 opposed to Foreman who was crowding his mid-forties when he fought Holyfield and Morrison. Miller isn’t as dangerous as Foreman if he catches you, but he is quicker on his feet than the older George and may be tougher to get away from and out-box, and that makes him a real player in the division once he gets a few more fights worth of experience.
On top of everything else, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller has a personality. He is a legitimate good guy who can talk smack and be funny, and a personality like his is great for the sport and the division. Once he starts backing it up more, he’ll be even better and more fun to follow.
Today’s heavyweight division, with the exception of the very top spot, is wide open. Miller has enough of the requisite tools to be a factor in the near future. His size and strength alone give him a head start, but there’s more to it than that. Miller can box a little bit and he’s also a tough man from what I’ve seen. As long as he can keep his weight under control and improve his stamina a little bit (which may be a big if), “Big Baby” is no joke. Although Miller does get a little tired because of his weight, you’d better be pretty careful when you go after him at that stage. He holds up pretty well, and it’s exhausting to unload your ammunition on a 300-pound man who’s not going anywhere. Trying to get Miller out took a tremendous toll on Gerald Washington.
If I had a heavyweight for whom I was calling the shots, I’d stay away from “Big Baby” unless there was a title or a ton of money on the line.
Photo credit: Tom Casino / SHOWTIME
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com