In the sport of Boxing, a common topic that you will hear discussed and asked among Boxing fans of any description as well as experts will be in regard to who is the next “Great” and/or rising Heavyweight? Obviously, such a topic will invoke varying opinions as well as stir more than a few debates.
The recent history of the division has seen a bit of an upward trend of such discussion due in large part to the rise of undefeated WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder as well as the emergence of undefeated unified WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Tyson Fury, who ended longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko’s over decade-long reign over the division last November. Although much of the focus of the division has naturally centered on both Wilder and Fury as two of the division’s central figures, undefeated knockout artist Anthony Joshua, who won the IBF Heavyweight world championship earlier this year has also established himself as a player. As Wilder, Fury, and Joshua sit atop a division that has appeared in recent times to be heading toward a period of transition, a question that some might ask could be if there is a prospect on the rise who could also enter into the discussion as a player in the division.
One such prospect could be undefeated rising Heavyweight contender Jarrell Miller. Much like Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, Miller is a fighter who has been developing a reputation as a “Knockout Artist.” In eighteen fights as a professional Miller has compiled seventeen victories and has scored fifteen knockouts in those seventeen wins while earning a draw in his fifth pro fight against veteran Joey Dawejko in January 2013.
Miller seems to have the ingredients that turn the heads of Boxing fans. An aggressive pressure attacker, with power in both hands as well as the ability to throw punches in combination. What has stood out to me about Miller thus far in his career is not only his ability to get an opponent out of there should the opportunity arise, but also how he uses body punching as a component of his offense that is in some ways similar to how Mike Tyson used to attack opponents to the body. In his last fight in May of this year, Miller stopped Nick Guivas in two rounds to win the vacant North American Boxing Organization (NABO) Heavyweight title and has moved his way into top ten contender status in both the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) respective Heavyweight ratings.
When a fighter establishes himself as a top ten contender, two questions are normally asked. The first particularly in the case of a fighter who has established himself as a “Knockout Artist” is will he face a significant test as a top contender. The second question that usually follows one of if that fighter will face a significant test is how long could it be before this fighter earns an opportunity at a world championship.
There could be potentially an answer to the first question as Miller will defend his NABO championship on Friday night against veteran contender Fred Kassi at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, NY in a fight scheduled for ten rounds that will headline the latest addition of Showtime Sports’ popular ShoBox: The New Generation series here in the United States. Kassi, who will enter the fight with a record of 18-5-1, with 10 Knockouts is a fighter that has given two recent world title challengers, Chris Arreola and Dominic Breazeale all they could handle in their respective bouts against him.
Kassi is an awkward fighter who switches between a conventional and southpaw stance during his fights and has good hand speed and defense. Kassi however, has also been a knockout victim once in his career when he suffered a brutal knockout at the hands of Heavyweight contender Amir Mansour in November 2014. A fight that Kassi was on the verge of scoring an upset of Mansour when a flush right hand from Mansour put an end to the fight and knocked Kassi out cold in the seventh round.
Although Kassi is coming off two straight losses, this should not be viewed necessarily as a rising contender being pitted against a fighter who should not be considered dangerous. In thinking of how Kassi might approach this fight, it is logical to assume that he will look to use his awkwardness to nullify some of Miller’s attack and to be more specific his punching power. Jarrell Miller has only been as far as seven rounds once in his career and from a strategic standpoint, Kassi could well look to weather the storm of the power puncher in the early rounds with the intent of extending him further than any other previous opponent while also looking to implement a fight plan to put himself in a position to win the fight.
Kassi is also a solid counter puncher and will no doubt be looking to exploit any openings that Miller might leave him. Even though most would probably consider Miller to be the favorite going into this fight, if he is not prepared or cannot adapt as the fight progresses, it could play right into Kassi’s hands as he likely sees this fight as an opportunity to reestablish himself as a contender in the division by scoring a victory over an undefeated rising contender.
Whether or not Jarrell Miller will be any closer to a potential opportunity at a world championship assuming he wins this fight is something that will probably be determined based on his performance if he is able to earn his eighteenth career victory. This is nevertheless the biggest potential test of Miller’s career thus far and he is facing the type of opponent that every potential “Great” fighter has to go through at some point in their careers. We will see what happens when Miller and Kassi do battle on Friday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
ShoBox: Miller vs. Kassi takes place on Friday, August 19th at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, NY. The card will be televised in the United States by Showtime at 10PM ET/PT and will also be available on the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps. Check your cable/satellite provider for time and channel in your area. For more information on Showtime, the Showtime and Showtime Anywhere apps, and available devices please visit: www.sho.com. Check your listings internationally.
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