When WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder knocked out Artur Szpilka in a title defense at the Barclays Center in January, he said, “The Barclays Center needs a face. I am looking forward to maybe making this my home away from home.”
Since Wilder is from Alabama, that didn’t sit well in certain districts of Brooklyn. Particularly, Bedford Stuyvesant, the home of unbeaten heavyweight Jarrell Miller.
“You can ask anyone from Brooklyn about that,” said Miller. “I heard about it a lot, why are we watching Deontay Wilder at Barclays Center? People are not pleased about it, I am not pleased about it. Brooklyn fans know who I am and they want to see me at the Barclays Center. It’s going to take the right person to come in there and punch his lights out. And that person is me.”
While that is a fight Miller wants, he first has to get past Fred Kassi in a 10-round bout on Friday night at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester. The fight is the main event of a ShoBox quadrupleheader that will be televised on Showtime. It’s Miller’s third ShoBox fight.
“Kassi is a legitimate step up for Miller,” said Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood. “I thought Kassi beat Chris Arreola, and his fight with Dominic Breazeale was very close. Given Miller’s size advantage, he should win, but Kassi’s a cutey who can be very difficult to fight.”
Kassi (18-5-1, 10 KOs) is 36 and has fought his share of heavyweight contenders. Still, Miller (17-0-1, 15 KOs) sees an easy fight.
“I know he’s durable,” said Miller, 28. “But once he feels my power, I think he’s going to run. If I put a little pressure on him, he’ll crumble.”
Miller, who has fought twice in Brooklyn at smaller venues, wants to follow in the footsteps of fellow Brooklyn heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe.
“Coming from Brooklyn, I had a blueprint from all of these guys before me,” he said. “You take as much as you can from the past, put it into your present and build for the future.”
A big part of Miller’s past includes kickboxing. After winning the New York Golden Gloves 2007, Miller shifted to kickboxing because he was being offered big money to fight the likes of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovicć and Arnold Oborotov.
“He was kickboxing because he couldn’t make any money in boxing,” said Dmitry Salita, a former junior welterweight contender who is now Miller’s promoter. “He was a 20-year-old kid going overseas to Japan, or Croatia, fighting in front crowds of 20,000 people. These were hostile fans who wanted to see their fighters win. And Jarrell would just go and fight, he didn’t care. I give him a lot of credit for that. You can’t teach that kind of desire, that kind of heart. that kind of dedication. Those fights prepared him for the spotlight of big-time boxing.”
This is Miller’s second Showtime appearance, and the fight could help determine if he’s making the transition from prospect to contender.
“It’s a good time to be a rising heavyweight,” said Farhood. “If Miller’s ready to fully bust out in a year or two, there will be plenty of big fights for him to choose from.”