‘Big Baby’ Won and That’s Enough in the Heavyweight Division

He’s glib and colorful, talks a great game and weighs a few McDonald’s happy meals over 300 pounds. He has adequate boxing skill, applies consistent pressure and can put his punches together in succession pretty good. Yes, heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller had the eyes of the boxing world on him this past weekend facing former title challenger Johann Duhaupas. And the belief of many insiders was that with a strong showing Miller would be next in line for a title shot against WBA/IBF/WBO title holder Anthony Joshua, assuming that AJ doesn’t fight WBC title holder Deontay Wilder in his next bout, something looking less likely with each passing day.

Some might say Miller 21-0-1 (18) did what he was supposed to do and that was get the “W.” He dominated Duhaupas 37-5 (24), winning a 12-round unanimous decision (119-109, 119-109, 117-111). Johann had fought Wilder in September of 2015 and had more good moments against him than he did against Miller. Although he was stopped in the 11th round, he was never off his feet and had Deontay’s left eye nearly swollen shut. Miller worked Duhaupas over for their entire fight but was never really on the verge of stopping him other than having him pretty well shook in the 11th round as he tried to equal Wilder, but he failed to turn the trick and it went the distance.

“He was a tough, durable fighter,” Miller said. “I thought I could get him out of there earlier but he ate all my punches, even the ones I threw with bad intentions.”

Miller’s words were refreshing because he was honest in admitting that he threw everything at Duhaupas. In doing so, what became crystal clear other than Duhaupas takes a pretty good shot was that “Big Baby” really can’t punch at the elite level. For as big and strong as Miller is, he lacks single shot fight-altering power. His saving grace is he can put his punches together well and that, coupled with the pressure he applies, wears down his opponents, making them more open and vulnerable later in the fight as we saw with Duhaupas.

“I’m ready for Anthony Joshua,” Miller said. “Let’s bring him to Brooklyn, show him how we do it.”

If the goal for Miller was to impress and whet the fans appetite for a match between him and Joshua, I think he needs a reboot. He’s saved by the fact that he’s Joshua’s mandatory challenger and that’ll probably be enough to draw AJ over here looking to be the first to stop him. Also, Miller is undefeated and is probably viewed as being safe and — maybe most importantly — capable with his bluster to hype and promote any fight in which he is involved. No doubt many will scoff at the prospect of Joshua-Miller if the Wilder fight isn’t made. However, heavyweights are lucky in that they have two things going for them that the other divisions don’t.

First, with the exception of the 70s and 90s the heavyweight division has never been terribly deep with talent. If Joshua and Wilder don’t face each other, how many opponents are out there who would really get the fans excited? Joshua just eliminated Joseph Parker and has already defeated Dillan Whyte, and Wilder defeated Luis Ortiz less than two months ago. That doesn’t leave many options for either AJ or Deontay. The other thing that applies to the heavyweights is that all you have to do is keep winning; it doesn’t matter who you beat. As long as there are undefeated guys out there who haven’t yet fought for the title, most boxing fans will buy in and the networks know it.

At one time Miller would’ve had to have blown out Duhaupas to keep his place in line to be next up for a title shot, but that’s not the case today. It doesn’t matter a bit that Miller exhibited nothing against Duhaupas to indicate he would be a stern challenge for Joshua…nothing whatsoever other than his weight and girth. In 2018 Miller did the requisite thing by just winning a clean decision and avoiding a disaster. And that’ll probably be enough to get him in the ring with AJ in his next fight.

Big Baby’s imitation George Foreman cheeseburger shtick will serve him well. And it won’t hurt having him refer to Joshua as being an “English Muffin” as he did immediately after fighting Duhaupas (inferring in a roundabout way that Joshua is soft). Yes, Miller meets all the requirements to serve as Joshua’s opponent in Joshua’s maiden fight in the United States. Joshua is affable and approachable with an engaging smile similar to Muhammad Ali. He’ll welcome meeting with fans, do press conferences, and perhaps make the talk show circuit for more exposure. And the nicer AJ is, the more Miller can play the bad guy and build up the interest in their fight.

No, “Big Baby” Miller didn’t look anything close to being the next heavyweight champion of the world in his last bout. But he’s an undefeated top-5 contender with size and probably an appetite for English muffins. Yes, Joshua versus Miller makes all the sense you need in boxing.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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