Heavyweight contender Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller is not participating in an official world title elimination fight, but he might as well be.
When Miller takes on Mariusz Wach in a scheduled 12-round fight on Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, on New York's Long Island, he is, for all intents and purposes, auditioning for a shot at unified world titleholder Anthony Joshua.
Although Miller is promoted by Dmitry Salita, the card is being promoted by Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn, the No. 1 promoter in the United Kingdom who is making his first foray into promoting in the United States. Hearn just so happens to promote Joshua, the British megastar whose 2018 plans are likely to include his first fight in the United States.
"While this is not an official eliminator for the world title, one thing is for sure -- the winner, I believe, will fight for a world title, and the loser will not," Hearn said.
Miller's fight with Wach is at an arena run by the same company that runs the boxing hotbed of Barclays Center in Miller's hometown of Brooklyn, and Barclays officials make no secret about the fact that they want Joshua to fight there, and that Miller, as a charismatic, exciting fighter from the neighborhood, would be an ideal opponent.
"While this is not an official eliminator for the world title, one thing is for sure -- the winner, I believe, will fight for a world title and the loser will not." Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn
The big fight in the heavyweight division, of course, is Joshua squaring off with titleholder Deontay Wilder in a unification fight between undefeated big punchers. They both defended their titles during the past two weeks by knockout, and public demand for their showdown is growing daily.
But both will likely fight at least once more before the potential meeting, and if Joshua comes stateside, Miller could be his man.
"We require as many contenders as possible," Hearn said. "Jarrell Miller is making a lot of noise right now, and we look for potential opponents for Anthony Joshua, particularly in the United States, and Jarrell Miller is at the top of the list. But on [Saturday], he has a very tough fight against Mariusz Wach. Coming off a win against someone like Mariusz Wach, you can start talking about world title shots.
"I think Jarrell Miller is one of the true heavyweights, and I know Anthony rates Jarrell highly and he'd be out for a fight with Jarrell Miller. He'd be one of the perfect guys to come over and take on in the States. Obviously, working with Dmitry and Jarrell, there is no reason why an Anthony Joshua-Jarrell Miller fight shouldn't happen. But first he has a very tough fight to get through."
"I don't know what's next or who's next at this point, but right now my main focus is on knocking Wach out, whooping his behind, and then we'll take it from there." Heavyweight contender Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller
Said Salita: "He understands this is a big opportunity for him, and as Eddie mentioned, after this fight he will potentially fight for the world title and be considered as one of the elite heavyweights. Jarrell is following a very rich lineage of Brooklyn heavyweights, [including] Riddick Bowe and Mike Tyson."
So, yes, the 6-foot-4, 290-ish-pound Miller needs to take care of the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Wach (33-2, 17 KOs), 37, of Poland, who challenged then-unified heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2012 and went the distance in a near-shutout loss. He rebounded with four victories in a row before getting stopped in the 12th round by Alexander Povetkin in 2015. Wach, who has had many of his bouts in the United States, has won two fights since and is now expected to give Miller (19-0-1, 17 KOs), 29, his toughest test.
Miller, as outgoing, talkative and media-friendly as any fighter around, doesn't see the fight as being all that difficult for him.
"Getting in the ring and doing what you do is not tough. I think marriage is more tough, for sure," he said. "Wach is just going to be another guy that I am going to crush. Come [Saturday], everyone is going to know what I'm capable of doing. I am bringing a whole different kind of 'Big Baby,' a whole different kind of animal, a whole different kind of look."
Since Miller figures he will destroy Wach, he had no problem talking about the prospect of challenging Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs), who had a few late-fight struggles but most recently stopped late replacement Carlos Takam in the 10th round on Oct. 28.
"I was getting ready for a fight, and I didn't get the phone call," Miller said of not being asked to fill in when Kubrat Pulev suffered an injury and withdrew against Joshua. "But it is what it is, and they know what I bring to the table. I don't know what's next or who's next at this point, but right now my main focus is on knocking Wach out, whooping his behind, and then we'll take it from there."
In the 12-round main event of the tripleheader, former middleweight world titlist Daniel Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs), 30, of Brooklyn, will face Luis Arias (18-0, 9 KOs), 27, of Milwaukee. The fight marks Jacobs' return to the ring for the first time since a close decision loss challenging unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in March. The fight is also Jacobs' first since signing an exclusive contract with HBO and a promotional deal with Hearn.
In the opening bout, junior welterweights Cletus "The Hebrew Hammer" Seldin (20-0, 16 KOs), 31, of Brooklyn, will face Roberto Ortiz (35-1-2, 26 KOs), 31, of Mexico, in a 10-rounder.