Is HBO just airing steppingstone bouts?
Setting goals is integral to an athlete’s success but many falter by overlooking a final hurdle before their dream destination. That is the predicament in which Daniel Jacobs 33-2 (29), and Jarrell Miller, 20-0-1 (18), find themselves as co-headliners for HBO’s nightcap to a full evening of boxing, in which three cards compete for market share. For the two “A-sides,” the opponents are only a means to an end. If the duo emerge victorious, they are in a good position to collect large paydays against divisional kings Anthony Joshua and Gennady Golovkin. In Jacobs’ case, even if a rematch with Golovkin does not materialize, he has a sizable consolation prize if he were to fight Saul Alvarez or Jermall Charlo. However none of that conjecture matters until they clear their respective hurdles tonight (10 p.m. ET/PT).
The third interested party in this boxing intrigue, as the promoter of Daniel Jacobs and Anthony Joshua, is Englishman Eddie Hearn, who promotes shows in America now. Hearn has the luxury of looking into the future without the possibility of getting knocked out. “Of course, we’re looking at ‘Canelo’ and we’re looking at Golovkin but we’re not overlooking the fight on April 28. This is a real fight against Sulecki.” As a promoter, Hearn could not stop looking at future possibilities, “There is also the Charlo fight and that’s one Danny really likes. Charlo is a talented young fighter but I get the feeling Danny wants to put manners on him and that could be a huge fight for New York. One thing that we said to Danny, when he joined the team, was that he’s going to know exactly when he’s boxing. He’s going to be keeping nice and active.”
Daniel Jacobs will almost certainly not overlook Sulecki, having learned his lesson against another unknown Eastern Bloc boxer Dmitry Pirog, suffering a fifth round stoppage that set his career back years. Jacobs seemed properly focused for Sulecki, addressing the media this week. “Well, I look at him as a live dog. I look at him as a very worthy opponent. I think his talent says a lot as well and, most importantly, he has really good heart and he comes to fight. So, him having that on his back and coming into Brooklyn, which is my backyard, I’m pretty sure this guy is willing to go.”
The history of New York City boxing is not lost on Jacobs and he says that can carry him, if need be. “It’s surreal to me to be able to follow greatness like Mike Tyson and Zab Judah and to represent them in my generation is a true honor. Brooklyn is full of culture, full of pride and full of greatness and I want to carry that legacy on and make the people proud. Maciej won’t know what’s hit him when he hears them cheering me on. It’s going to be red-hot in there.” Jacobs believes it won’t come down to the crowd. “I consider myself to be the best middleweight in the world and I always wanted to make sure that I’ve prepared for this guy.”
Not everyone will cheer for Jacobs, since New York City hosts a considerable Polish population that will come out in force to back Warsaw-born Maciej Sulecki, 26-0 (10), a boxer whose attitude and workrate is reflected in an undefeated record, “I worked very hard for this opportunity, first of all, to be in this place, to stand in this position. I am ready. The previous fights were just a preparation for me being well-known to everyone. This kind of situation is giving me extra motivation. Like I said before, maybe you guys didn’t know me before but you guys are going to know me after this fight.”
While confident, Sulecki did not see a need to denigrate Jacobs, which was the preferred method, at this same venue, last week between Adrien Broner and Jessie Vargas, ”I think (Jacobs is) a very good fighter and I’ve always said this. I have a lot of respect for Danny, and to his character and his boxing skills, but I don’t treat him as anyone really special. When you look at paper and pen and wins and losses, Danny Jacobs is the best fighter who I ever fought but we’re going to verify who he is on April 28. This will be a big war; I promise. I’m a real Polish warrior.” This is exactly what Jacobs is preparing for, “(Sulecki) will bring it and I know that he’s going to have a lot of fans in there and he’ll put a show on.”
Jacobs and Sulecki may have to upstage an entertaining heavyweight match-up that comes before them, as American knockout artist Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller takes on Johann Duhaupas, the Frenchman who gave WBC heavyweight beltholder Deontay Wilder some scary moments in their entertaining scrap three years ago. It’s a match Eddie Hearn also sees as a path to bigger things for the winner, “This is another great fight in the division and very important in the worldwide rankings. I think Jarrell Miller is due a big performance. I think he has some good wins, some solid wins against (Gerald) Washington and (Mariusz) Wach but I think Duhaupas is going to really come and give him a fight. You saw (Duhaupas) in a great fight with Deontay Wilder, you know, an 11-round war, and now I think Jarrell Miller’s going to make a really big statement in front of his home fans.”
Hearn stated that Anthony Joshua will be an interested observer, perhaps even sitting ringside, which meant Jarrell Miller had to answer as many questions about the possibility of facing Joshua, as he did Duhaupas. The 29-year-old Miller handled it with aplomb, “I’m not a gullible guy. I don’t believe half of anything until it’s actually in front of me. My main focus is Johann Duhaupas and I’m going to knock him out and then I go to the drawing board to see what fits me best,” quickly refocusing the press on his main concern of Duhaupas, “I like his fighting style; I think he’s tailored made to me. I think he’s going to bring the fight and that’s what’s going to cause him to get his behind knocked out. I know he can take a hell of a beating, and come back to me and you’re going to take more of a beating.”
Miller’s intent to look the part of a heavyweight who cannot only share the ring with Anthony Joshua but defeat him. To that end, Miller says he is only striving for one outcome. “A lot of times fighters say they don’t go into fights looking for knockouts and I always told fighters, interviewers and the public, all the time, that that’s a lie. As fighters, you always try to look for the knockouts. In every one of my fights I try to go for the knockout. Will it come? I sure hope so. Am I going to go look for it? Damn, right.”
It will take a concerted effort to stop Duhaupas, 37-4 (24), who proved his merit Deontay Wilder, who is widely regarded as the heavyweight division’s hardest puncher. Duhaupas asserts that loss has been put behind him and that Miller is a different puzzle, “We can’t compare Miller and Wilder because they are both very different. Miller is very heavy and he just keeps pushing and Wilder uses a lot of his legs and he is very good shape. I’ve never been as ready as I am now. I’m very confident because I have lot of experience from my previous fights. I’ve had really great preparation. I’m ready and I can beat Miller. Miller is just an American making noise.”
Jacobs and Miller are considerable favorites and I see both winning to reach their stated goals. Jacobs may have to dig deep for his victory against a well-conditioned brawler who likes to get inside. All four boxers’ philosophies and attitudes were encapsulated and voiced by Jarrell Miller, who sees himself only missing one item to validate his place within the boxing hierarchy, “When it comes to being a full package, the only thing that’s missing is the title around my waist.”