Jarrell Miller received better news than expected even if not the sought-after resolution.
The five-member panel of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) voted unanimously in favor of Brooklyn’s Miller (23-0-1, 20KOs) remaining under suspension through June 16, 2022, though with a compromise. A proposal introduced by commissioner Anthony A. Marnell III called for the unbeaten former heavyweight contender to be immediately eligible for a license beginning June 17, provided he continues to produce negative drug tests through VADA’s random drug testing program.
“The ball is in your court,” Marnell told Miller, who appeared along with his attorneys via conference call at the commission’s monthly agenda hearing Wednesday morning at state headquarters in Las Vegas. “You will serve out the 24 months. It’s 100% on you to determine what you do here.”
Miller was served with a backdated 24-month suspension in December 2020, a ruling from his having tested positive for the banned substance GW501516—also known as cardarine and endurobol—ahead of his scheduled July 9 clash with Jerry Forrest. The bout was to have aired live on ESPN from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, marking his first ring appearance since November 2018 as well as his debut under the Top Rank banner.
The Nevada commission placed Miller under temporary suspension during its July 2020 monthly agenda hearing, with the matter tabled until reaching an appropriate punishment later that December. The terms of the suspension included room for up to a six-month reduction had Miller complied with random drug testing terms—submitting to no fewer than two random drug tests per month for six consecutive months to complete the program.
However, the absence of a payday since Miller’s last fight in November 2018 left him unable to afford the testing program in addition to falling on hard times on a personal level.
“I lost my wife. I lost my home. I lost my career,” Miller noted during an impassioned speech. “Now I’m in court fighting to be with my son. Financially, I am required to pay legal fees. This is bigger than boxing. It means being there for my son, for my mother.”
Miller’s testimony along with the fair compromise offered by commissioner Marnell provided an unexpected window of opportunity. NSAC executive director Jeffrey Mullen—who replaced the recently retired Bob Bennett late last year—was prepared to reject the application filed by Miller seeking a twelve-week reduction based on the evidence placed before him along with the disgraced former contender’s past drug testing history.
Miller tested positive for a banned substance tested positive for a banned substance for a June 2014 kickboxing event in Inglewood, California for which he was suspended for nine months. The far more attention-grabbing incident came in April 2019, when it was learned that Miller came up dirty in three separate VADA tests ahead of his canceled June 2019 challenge of then-unbeaten WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua.
Miller stood to make by far the biggest payday of his career for a shot at the heavyweight crown at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden. The opportunity instead went to Andy Ruiz, who rose from a knockdown to floor Joshua four times en route an upset seventh-round knockout to become the first-ever Mexican boxer to win a piece of the heavyweight championship.
A loophole allowed Miller to avoid suspension, as the test results came prior to reviewal of his application for a boxing license in the state of New York. Still, it left Miller out of the ring through the rest of the year before co-promoters Greg Cohen and Dmitry Salita reached a pact with Top Rank to bring him back in 2020.
The process was delayed by the pandemic before landing on a July 9 ESPN date. The fight with Forrest was conditionally approved by the NSAC, who insisted that Miller was to be treated as a licensed fighter and which subjected him to commission-approved random testing. The move led to his being suspended since that time, with the Nevada commission initially unsympathetic to his inability to comply with the terms of his punishment.
“Jarrell Miller is a gifted fighter,” noted Mullen. “I have great sympathy for him in that has not fought in (nearly) four years. However, he has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in three different jurisdictions.
“He did not follow (the drug testing terms of the suspension). He was to start the drug testing program. He tried to start, then it was discontinued (after one test).”
Under such terms, granting a reduction of any kind was not considered by the recently appointed executive director or the five-person commission panel.
“He restarted (VADA testing) voluntarily in good faith which was a great move,” acknowledged Mullen. “However, I don’t think it will set a great precedent to reduce his suspension based on the events of the past year.”
Miller accepted his role in failing to live up to the specified terms, acknowledging that Cohen and his manager have been financially supporting him in the past year. The undefeated heavyweight—who turns 34 in July— used that second chance to re-enroll in VADA late last summer, remaining in the gym though without a firm fight date.
The hope is to return to the ring in the next few months, though Miller acknowledged that a fight of any kind was not scheduled or even in advanced talks to take place any time prior to the end of his current suspension. The decision among his team was that it was best to not fully pursue prior to Wednesday’s commission ruling.
With that came a glimmer of hope.
“If the fighter’s test remains negative, he would be eligible to fight post-June 16, beginning June 16 as long as he remains negative with (VADA) testing program,” noted Marnell.
The response was good enough for Miller, especially in light of the revelation that a far worse outcome was possible. “After reviewing the records, I was not coming close to compromising,” admitted Mullen. “A deal is a deal. I hope that you become that great fighter and world champion. That would be beautiful. What a story that would be.
“I’m gonna support commissioner Marnell. It is an elegant solution and you moved me today.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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