Monday, November 19, 2018

Will Miller Fight For A World Championship In 2019?

As the year 2018 nears its conclusion, one of the central stories in the sport of Boxing remains the question of whether or not the Heavyweight division will determine an Undisputed world champion in 2019 with undefeated current world champions Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua being the main subjects that surround the question. Of course, the answer to that question will likely not be answered before the end of the year as the main focus of the division will focus on Deontay Wilder's upcoming defense of his WBC crown against undefeated former Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury on December 1st in Los Angeles, CA. While the obvious question that will be asked of the winner of that fight will be whether or not they will fight Joshua next, there are other possible opponents that could be an option for either the Wilder-Fury winner or Anthony Joshua that could throw a monkey wrench into potential plans to fully unify the Heavyweight division.

One possible opponent is undefeated top Heavyweight contender Jarrell Miller. Miller, who is affectionately known as “Big Baby” has spent the last several years climbing the ranks of the division and emerging as a possible threat to either Wilder or unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Anthony Joshua. The native of Brooklyn, NY amassed an impressive record of 21-0-1, with 18 Knockouts before his encounter last month with former two-division world champion Tomasz Adamek in Chicago.

Although on paper Adamek had the credentials and experience that one would assume could present a test for Miller, the forty-one year old Adamek, who had previously held world championships in both the Light-Heavyweight and Cruiserweight divisions in his career before a lengthy run as a Heavyweight contender, was simply over matched. Miller used his bigger size and punching power to stop Adamek in two rounds.

The win over the “Game”, but over matched Adamek while in some ways expected did little in terms of answering questions that some might have regarding Miller. Despite his impressive record and having a career knockout percentage of over 80%, Miller much like most fighters who earn a reputation as a “Knockout Artist” has been asked the question of who might be able to provide a significant test.

One month after his victory over Adamek the undefeated contender was back in the ring as he faced fellow unbeaten Heavyweight Bogdan Dinu on November 17th at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, KS. This was a rarity in some ways for fighters who are viewed as emerging top contenders in this era for a fighter in Miller’s position to be back in the ring so soon after his previous outing. From an old-school perspective however, this fight offered Miller an opportunity to both stay busy and continue to generate interest as he looks for a potential opportunity to fight for a world title.

As someone who is a Boxing journalist and historian, I am in favor of fighters being as active as possible as it has the benefits previously mentioned, but more importantly, allows the fighter to maintain a sharpness by competing often. While it is not uncommon to see a top contender or a world champion in the current landscape of the sport competing between one to three times a year, I wish more fighters took the approach of being willing to fight as much as they can. A scenario like this can however, present an element of danger.

In this case, Miller was facing a fighter in Dinu who like himself was undefeated. The Romanian-born and based Dinu was however, largely unknown to most Boxing fans having fought his previous eighteen professional fights in Romania and Canada. Despite an impressive record of 18-0, with 14 Knockouts heading into the bout with Miller, Dinu had not previously faced any noteworthy opposition and this fight represented a clear step up for him against a fighter rated in the top ten in both the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and the World Boxing Association (WBA). Beyond this being a stay busy fight for Miller and a bout that would answer what Bogdan Dinu had to offer, this bout for the vacant North American Boxing Organization (NABO) Heavyweight championship, a regional championship affiliated with the WBO also represented an opportunity for the winner to potentially put himself in line for a shot at a world championship.

Miller outweighed Dinu by seventy-eight pounds and the weight difference was immediately apparent in the early stage of the fight. Dinu however, did have some success in being able to land his jab, mix in combinations, and use lateral movement in an attempt to evade the constant pressure of Miller. The pressure of Miller as well as his heavier punches, gradually broke Dinu down as Miller was able to score two knockdowns, due largely to the gradual work he had done to Dinu’s body to earn a fourth round knockout victory.

There simply wasn't much to say about this fight. It was a story of one fighter gradually walking his opponent down and breaking the opponent down. While the victory was not one that would fuel immediate demand for Miller to face one of the world champions in the Heavyweight division in his next fight, the question is will he get the opportunity to fight for a world championship in 2019?

The somewhat ironic thing about Miller’s position currently in the division is while fans may not be saying this fighter deserves to fight a world champion in his next fight, that might exactly be what happens. It is important to note that Miller is not just rated in the top ten in both the WBA and WBO Heavyweight rankings, but he is rated in the top five in both organizations. What makes the possibility of Miller fighting for at least a portion of the World Heavyweight championship sooner rather than later a real possibility is those top five rankings are by organizations whose world championships Anthony Joshua currently holds as part of his unified crown.

Joshua has an open date to defend his unified world championship at Wembley Stadium in London, in April 2019. If a bout between Joshua and the winner of the upcoming Wilder-Fury fight to determine an Undisputed Heavyweight world champion is not made for next April, there are a few reasons why one could say that Jarrell Miller might be a front-runner to face Joshua.  In Joshua’s last fight in September, he successfully defended his crown against WBA number one rated contender Alexander Povetkin in Wembley Stadium.

While it is unlikely at least in this observer’s view that the WBA would mandate Joshua to face the highest available contender, in this case Miller, immediately after fulfilling his annual mandatory title defense obligations in regard to the WBA, the possibility definitely exists that Miller, who is currently rated number four by the WBO could be chosen as an elective defense for Joshua. The reason for this is current WBO number one contender Dillian Whyte is scheduled to face longtime top contender Dereck Chisora in a rematch of their December 2016 bout, on December 22nd in England.

While Chisora will enter the fight rated number eleven by the WBO, it is obvious that the respective rankings, which are updated regularly, will be updated following that fight. Depending on the outcome of that fight, the possibility of Miller’s current standing in the WBO rankings being elevated is there. In regard to Miller possibly being chosen as an elective defense for Joshua in the event that a fight with the Wilder-Fury winner is not signed, there was also a verbal altercation between Joshua and Miller at the July press conference announcing the U.S. launch of the DAZN digital streaming network. Obviously while such altercations are unnecessary, what they do is generate buzz and with both Miller and Joshua being prominently featured in the first months of DAZN’s U.S. expansion, it makes sense that a fight between the two would be something that not only fans would be interested in, but from a business perspective, a fight between the two would naturally entice those who are not currently subscribers to DAZN to subscribe.

Whether or not a fight to determine the Undisputed World Heavyweight championship will take place in 2019 is something that remains to be seen. Jarrell Miller has established himself as a contender for either world champion in the division and while full unification remains on most “Boxing Wishlists” including this observer’s, I cannot see Miller being kept from an opportunity for a world championship for much longer. The question is not if Miller will fight for a world championship, but when. The year 2019 just might be the time that it will happen.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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