While heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder spent last week engaged in a tango over whether or not they will meet in a unification bout, Brooklyn heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller fought to maintain his focus on his 12-round WBA heavyweight title eliminator against Frenchman Johann Duhaupas Saturday night at Barclays Center.
Miller went in knowing a misstep would cost him a shot at Joshua and his three titles should the Joshua-Wilder negotiations fall through. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who promoted Saturday’s show featuring middleweight Daniel Jacobs (33-3, 29 KOs) against Polish contender Maciej Sulecki (26-0, 10 KOs), also is Joshua’s promoter and he has dangled the prospect of bringing Joshua to Brooklyn to face Miller in August.
Miller failed to score an impressive knockout, but there was no question about his dominance as he scored a lopsided unanimous decision over Duhaupas. Judges Bernard Rooney and Julie Lederman gave Miller the fight by a whopping 119-109 margin, and Larry Hazzard Jr. scored it, 117-111. Miller (21-0-1, 18 KOs) was a 119-111 winner over Duhaupas (37-4, 24 KOs) on Newsday’s card.
Hearn made it clear earlier in the week Joshua’s first priority is a unification bout with Wilder. “[Joshua] can become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in his 22nd fight,” Hearn said. “If we don’t get it now, we may not get it because there will be mandatories, etc., etc.
“But if Wilder doesn’t want to fight next, we may come here and fight in Brooklyn, providing Jarrell Miller wins. If he can produce a good performance, I think there’s a chance for Jarrell Miller to step in as Anthony Joshua’s next opponent. He doesn’t believe me.”
Until he has that bird in his hand, Miller remains skeptical. But after dispatching Duhaupas, he made it clear what is next on his agenda. “I’m ready for Joshua,” Miller said. “Let’s bring him to Brooklyn and show him how we do it.”
At 304 pounds, Miller came in with a decided weight advantage over Duhaupas, who weighed in at 244 on Friday. If he was feeling the pressure, Miller didn’t show it in a dominant first round where he established himself in the center of the ring and landed a flurry of right hands late in the round. Midway through the second, Miller maneuvered Duhaupas to the ropes and unleashed a massive two-handed flurry. But a low blow caused referee Shada Murtaugh to give the Frenchman time to recover.
Duhaupas began to gain his footing in the third and landed the biggest punches of the fourth round. But early in the fifth, Miller unloaded a 15-punch combination and later backed it up with a couple powerful right uppercuts followed by a left hook. Both fighters coasted through the sixth, but Miller controlled the ring.
It was a different story in the seventh when Miller roughed up Duhaupas with three left hands and two right uppercuts mid-round and began talking to his opponent and bullying him around the ring. The eight and ninth rounds were pedestrian, but Miller controlled the middle of the ring, and in the 10th, he landed repeated sharp jabs and pressed a tough body attack.
When he fought Wilder, Duhaupas was stopped in the 11th, and he seemed on the verge of giving way when Miller landed a seven-punch combo but made it to the bell. Duhaupas didn’t have enough left to mount a 12th-round rally, but he survived.
Miller admitted some disappointment that he didn’t get the knockout. “He was a tough, durable fighter,” Miller said of Duhaupas. “I threw a lot of punches with bad intentions. I thought I could get him out earlier. But he ate a lot of my punches, even the ones I threw with bad intentions.”