Jarrell Miller knows you worry about his weight … Don’t, he says
NEW YORK – Jarrell Miller will never know what it’s like to sit in a sauna and sweat out the pounds the way many non-heavyweight boxers have to. For a heavyweight, it isn’t about making weight, but the appearance of being in shape. As he stood in the ring at Mendez Gym on Wednesday to have his hands wrapped by trainer Harry Keitt before his media workout, questions thrown at him were not about his upcoming opponent, Mariusz Wach, or about fighting on HBO for the first time this Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
“What weight are you coming in at?” shouted one reporter, as Miller sipped from an iced black coffee from Starbucks.
“260?” Miller, patient about a line of questioning that would be out of line in most settings other than the flesh trade that is boxing, laughed it off and said no, as if such a figure would be absurd for his 6-foot-4 frame.
“270?” No, Miller responded again as he finished off his wraps.
He figures he’ll weigh in at 285 pounds when he steps on the scale Friday, less than the 298 3/4 pounds that he weighed in July for his eighth-round stoppage of Gerald Washington.
The questions are well-founded. History is littered with talented heavyweights whose inability to control their weight put a cap on their potential — fighters like Kirk Johnson, Buster Mathis and, more recently, Chris Arreola. The example of Bermane Stiverne showing up 15 pounds heavier for the rematch with Deontay Wilder last week and getting destroyed in under three minutes is still burned into the minds of observers.
It’s hard to not take notice of Miller’s weight trajectory, from a low of 242 in 2012 to somehow being 286 just a month later in his lone career blemish, a draw against Joey Dawejko. The 29-year-old Brooklynite was 255 pounds when he fought Excell Holmes, then weighed 280 four months later for his win over Akhror Muralimov.
The numbers are there to scrutinize, but to hear Miller speak it, his body is just different and it doesn’t impact how he performs.
“Even when I was younger … I fought brolic ex-bodybuilders and beat the breaks off of them. I was a big kid, had man boobs and a big belly, and I was whipping their butt,” said Miller (19-0-1, 17 knockouts), who carries much of his weight in his massive legs.
“I’ve always had to prove myself against guys that physically look better but didn’t have this kind of mentality or the skills. I’ve been grooming myself for this all my entire fight career. So them asking my weight … don’t worry about it. I still have the highest punch output in the heavyweight division. I still have one of the best … I know I have the best jab in the heavyweight division. I haven’t had the chance to really show it because of the fights I’ve had.”
Keitt, a onetime sparring partner for Muhammad Ali who had trained John Duddy and Dmitriy Salita, who is now Miller’s promoter, says he has worked with Miller since he was 16 and weighed 310 pounds. He says Miller puts in the work in the gym and on the road, and doesn’t appear visually as out of shape as the numbers suggest.
“He doesn’t look like he’s 300 pounds or 270,” said Keitt, who carries as many keys on his belt loop as a high school janitor. “And he’s a very hard worker, so he does what he has to do. He wants to be a champion and he’s gonna be a champion.”
Salita, himself a 38-fight veteran, says he considered making weight for boxing to be harder than the fighting. He says Miller has employed a nutritionist for this camp to cook for him and guide him on supplements, and thinks Miller looks the best he’s yet looked physically.
“Even when Jarrell is heavy on the scale, he never looks heavy,” said Salita. “However, for this camp, just from what I see, this is the best that I see. He looks slim, he looks trim. His face looks skinny, his body looks tight.”
By contrast, Wach (33-2, 17 KOs) remains trim as ever with his 6-foot-7 frame. The durable big man from Krakow, Poland, is on a two-fight winning streak and has only lost on the two occasions he stepped up from the trialhorse circuit — a 12th-round stoppage loss on a cut against Alexander Povetkin in 2015 and a 2012 decision loss when Wladimir Klitschko nailed him with everything but couldn’t score a knockout.
Miller isn’t too concerned about what he expects to be his most difficult assignment yet.
“Wach is a very durable guy; he supposedly has a chin of granite. But if you watch the opponents he’s fought, he’s fought guys that are not really that aggressive,” said Miller.
“He got nothing for Big Baby. I know what I’m bringing to the table, I know what he got — and I got to beat him up.”
Other than his numbers on the scale, there’s a lot to like about Miller. He brings a lot of personality to his craft, like early in his career when he brought his “Big Baby” nickname to life by wearing a diaper, bib and a pacifier to the ring. He’s a mohawk-wearing, quick-witted New Yorker who has never met a microphone he didn’t like. Nowhere in the world do people talk the talk better than in the Big Apple.
He’s also an aggressive, hard-punching fighter who strings his blows together and doesn’t neglect the body. What his people hope to see out of him Saturday in Long Island is something that suggests he can hang with the WBC titleholder, whom Miller referred to as “Beyonce Wilder,” or the unified WBA/IBF titleholder, whom he called “Anthony G-String Joshua.”
When Eddie Hearn, promoter of Saturday’s card, said something to Miller about fighting Joshua, Miller warned him that he’d cost him his cash cow.
“I think that would be the best fight for me at this point,” said Miller of facing Joshua. “The big money right now is in England; the hugest money is in America when we have two superstars fighting on pay-per-view.”
But he’d also understand if Wilder and Joshua decided to put their belts together, and in the interim he would be open to facing WBO titleholder Joseph Parker or even the new WBC No. 1 contender, Dillian Whyte, instead.
Salita acknowledges that making big fights becomes a lot easier if he can keep the networks happy, but suggests that Miller has some ground to cover to build his buzz up to make those fights as viable as they can be.
“Jarrell is a pretty young guy, and I feel that he’s still getting better with each fight and he’s just now arriving on the big scene. I see that he still has room to grow and to develop,” said Salita. Keitt, like Salita, says Miller is ready for the top guys in the heavyweight division, but wouldn’t protest if his pupil got another fight or two beforehand.
Absent Miller all of a sudden showing up on the scale looking like Evander Holyfield, he’ll have his skeptics about his weight. The burden is on him to show that he’s one butterfly that can float at any weight.