For much of the past few months, the talk surrounding boxing's heavyweight division has centered on three names: Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua. And for good reason. Fury and Wilder are set to square off on Dec. 1, with Wilder's WBC belt on the line, while Joshua -- who many hope will fight the winner of Fury-Wilder -- dispatched Alexander Povetkin in September to retain his three major belts.
There is one man, however, who hopes he can soon break into that discussion. Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller (22-0-1, 19 KOs) will return to the ring on Saturday night when he takes on undefeated Romanian fighter Bogdan Dinu (18-0, 14 KOs) in the main event of Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing card in Mulvane, Kansas (9 p.m. ET, DAZN).
Miller, currently ranked No. 4 in the heavyweight division by BoxRec and No. 8 by Ring Magazine, won't make that leap this weekend. No matter how strong he looks, the simple fact of the matter is he can't push his way into the top tier of heavyweights by defeating a guy who's spent most of his career fighting in Romania against opponents who don't even have Wikipedia pages.
That's to take nothing away from Dinu, who has handled his business and won every professional fight he's entered, but he's not the type of marquee opponent Miller needs to beat in order to establish himself as a legitimate title contender. What Miller -- or perhaps Dinu, if he scores a big upset -- can claim is a belt. It's not a major prize, but it's a prize nonetheless, as the WBA (regular) title will be on the line.
That these two men are even fighting for it has taken a strange confluence of events. First, the belt was recently vacated by Manuel Charr due to a failed drug test. After that, Miller was originally set to face 45-year-old Fres Oquendo, who hasn't fought since 2014 but was legally owed a shot at this belt. Oquendo turned down the fight, however, because he didn't believe there would be enough time to implement a proper drug testing protocol. With Oquendo out of the picture, Dinu backed out of an October bout with Tom Little in Bulgaria, and accepted the challenge to face Miller.
Miller vs. Dinu fight card, odds
Jarrell Miller -1400
Bogdan Dinu +750
Claressa Shields (c) -10000
Hannah Rankin +1600
But for all of the twists and turns to get to this point, Miller seems less worried about this bout, and more focused on potential matchups with bigger names in the future.
"Bogdan is aggressive but that's against guys that want to survive," Miller said about his opponent this weekend. "He's never fought someone like me, who is going to be the aggressor in the fight. He's light and he's not a heavy puncher, and I'm going to be coming forward, throwing bombs and mixing it up, it's going to be completely new to him. He's going to try to move against me, everybody does, but then they all end up running for their lives – and they can only run for so long."
Confident he can take care of the Romanian, Miller spent most of his pre-fight press run proclaiming his superiority to Dillian Whyte, and suggesting a win over a Brit -- be it Whyte or someone else -- would be the kind of victory he needs to make his name in this division.
"I have to beat a Brit -- if I do that, a lot will change," Miller said. "When you are high risk, low reward, people will make excuses not to fight you and the fans will buy into it. I am not afraid of Dillian -- I'm afraid of no man. If AJ is not ready to face me with a title, then I'll go and whoop Dillian's butt. It'll help my profile in Britain."
"He's a clown," Miller continued. "Nobody is afraid of him."
It's understandable that Miller is looking ahead to bigger and better things, but first he will need to take care of business Saturday night in Kansas.
Dinu is undefeated, but most of those contests have come against journeymen, and he's also never been in a fight that's lasted more than six rounds. Even Dinu's experience sparring with Anthony Joshua won't be enough to help him here.
Miller, who is coming off a two-round destruction of Tomasz Adamek just over a month ago, and has plenty to prove, should be too much of a step-up in competition for Dinu.
Prediction: Miller via eighth-round stoppage