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The Hauser Report: Jarrell Miller, PEDs, and Boxing

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Jarrell Miller is the poster boy this week for the use of banned performance enhancing drugs in boxing. But there’s plenty of blame to go around and people who are more culpable than Miller.

Let’s start with some facts.

Miller was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission in 2014 after testing positive for methylhexaneamine following a Glory 17 kickboxing event. More recently, he was dropped from the World Boxing Council rankings because he refused to join the WBC Clean Boxing Program. When it was time to sign up for PED testing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) as required by his contract to fight Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden on June 1, Jarrell dragged his heels before submitting the necessary paperwork. Meanwhile, at press conferences in New York and London to promote the bout, he accused Joshua of using illegal performance enhancing drugs.

On April 16, it was revealed that a urine sample taken from Miller by a VADA collection officer on March 20 had tested positive for GW1516 (a banned substance also known as Cardarine and Endurobol). GW1516 was developed in the 1990s to treat diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Its use was largely discontinued in 2007 after it was linked to the development of cancer during trials on mice. It’s not classified as an anabolic steroid but is considered an anabolic compound and has anabolic properties because it helps build muscle mass. Essentially, it forces skeletal muscle to use fat rather than carbohydrates as an energy source and is also an endurance aid.

On April 17, the New York State Athletic Commission denied Miller’s request for a license that would have allowed him to fight Joshua. In so doing, the commission indicated that, if the B-sample taken from Jarrell on March 20 were tested and came back negative, he could reapply for the license.

That same day, Team Miller formally requested that Jarrell’s B-sample be tested, and Miller posted a statement on social media that read, “I am absolutely devastated upon hearing the news my boxing license has been revoked in NY State and I will be vigorously appealing this decision. I have NEVER knowingly taken any banned substance and, when I found out the news, I was totally shocked. My team and I stand for integrity, decency & honesty and together we will stand to fight this with everything we have! This was a voluntarily test that I was very happy to do and these results came just one week after another voluntarily test that I had taken which was completely clean. I refuse to just lie down and let my dream be taken away from me when I know in my heart that I’ve done nothing wrong. 15 years of hard work. I’m WARRIOR. I don’t need a banned substance.”

One day later, on April 18, VADA notified the New York State Athletic Commission, promoter Eddie Hearn, and both the Joshua and Miller camps that a blood sample taken from Jarrell on March 31 had tested positive for human growth hormone, another banned substance.

On April 19, Miller hit the trifecta when it was announced that a urine sample taken from him by VADA on March 31 had come back positive for EPO (erythropoietin), a banned performance enhancing drug that stimulates the production of red blood cells.

That evening, Miller posted a video on social media in which he acknowledged, “This is your boy, ‘Big Baby’ Miller here, A lot can be said right now. I’ma get straight to the point, I messed up. I messed up. I made a bad call. A lot of ways to handle a situation. I handled it wrongly. And I’m paying the price for it. Missed out on a big opportunity and I’m hurtin’ on the inside. My heart is bleeding right now. I hurt my family, my friends, my team, my supporters. But I’m gonna own up to it. I’m gonna deal with it, I’ma correct it and I’m gonna come back better. I’m humbled by the experience, I understand how to handle certain things. I’m gonna leave it at that. I love you guys and I appreciate you guys out there, and as fighters we go through a lot, I don’t wanna make it a bad name for ourselves. It’s time to do right and get right. So I thank you guys.”

Miller got caught, but he wasn’t alone in his wrongdoing. Forty years ago, Ken Norton was known for his chiseled physique. In boxing’s current PED era, most elite fighters are more chiseled than Norton ever was. They aren’t all clean.

It’s a matter of record that numerous fighters have had “adverse findings” with regard to the use of performance enhancing drugs. The list includes – but is not limited to – Luis Ortiz, Alexander Povetkin, Antonio Tarver, Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto, James Toney, Shannon Briggs, Tyson Fury, Ricardo Mayorga, Lucas Browne, Fernando Vargas, Frans Botha, J’Leon Love, Orlando Salido, Brandon Rios, and Canelo Alvarez. In addition, suspicions have been raised with regard to stars like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, and Evander Holyfield.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency began testing professional boxers for performance enhancing drugs in 2010. USADA could have been instrumental in cracking down on the use of PEDs in boxing. Instead, it became an instrument of accommodation. USADA’s website states that it administered 1,501 tests on 128 professional boxers. Yet it reported only one adverse finding regarding a professional boxer to a governing state athletic commission.

By way of comparison, Dr Margaret Goodman (president of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) says that close to four percent of the tests for illegal performance enhancing drugs conducted by VADA come back positive. Using the four-percent benchmark, one would expect that 60 of the 1,501 tests conducted by USADA would have yielded a positive result.

In recent months, USADA has conceded to multiple third parties that there was more than one positive test result with regard to a professional boxer but that it chose to “adjudicate these matters internally” without reporting the positive result to the opposing fighter’s camp or state athletic commission that had oversight responsibility with regard to a given fight.

Moreover, it appears as though USADA – with public scrutiny focusing on its test results – has stopped testing professional boxers for PEDs. According to the USADA website (updated through April 20, 2019), the most recent tests conducted on professional boxers by USADA were administered to Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter, who fought each other at Barclay’s Center on September 8, 2018.

In other words, a company that conducted more than fifteen hundred tests on professional boxers over the course of eight years (and reaped hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars from the procedure) suddenly stopped testing professional boxers.

Good riddance.

The various state athletic commissions have also been delinquent in their oversight responsibilities as they relate to illegal performance enhancing drugs. Not one commission has developed the expertise, committed the financial resources, and otherwise demonstrated the resolve to eliminate the use of illegal PEDs.

Four of Miller’s most recent six fights have been under the jurisdiction of the New York State Athletic Commission. One can speculate that Jarrell didn’t suddenly decide to load up on a cornucopia of banned performance enhancing drugs for his fight against Anthony Joshua without having tried any of them before. Hypothetically speaking, he could have been using the same banned substances prior to all of his recent fights.

VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman says that, had Miller’s samples been collected by the New York State Athletic Commission and tested pursuant to current NYSAC protocols, none of the three banned substances would have been detected. It’s unlikely that the three drugs would have been detected pursuant to the PED testing protocols of any other state athletic commission either unless the tests were administered by VADA.

Does the attention focused recently on Jarrell Miller represent an opportunity to change the culture of PED use in boxing? And if so, how can the culture be changed?

No one entity can rid boxing of performance enhancing drugs. But a coordinated effort by the powers that be can take significant steps in the right direction.

First, a shout out to Margaret Goodman and VADA. Dr. Goodman has waged a courageous, often lonely struggle against the spread of performance enhancing drugs in boxing. She has put an enormous amount of time and quite a bit of her own money into the cause.

Each state athletic commission should demand that a fighter submit to VADA testing as a prerequisite to that fighter being licensed within its jurisdiction. The Association of Boxing Commissions should encourage its members to adopt this policy. If the various state athletic commissions act in concert, it will preclude forum shopping by PED users.

State athletic commissions should also, where appropriate, enlist the aid of law enforcement authorities.

Government entities don’t effectively combat heroin use by prosecuting addicts. In addition to providing treatment for addiction, they combat heroin use by prosecuting the drug traffickers.

There are gyms in the United States that are known as distribution centers for illegal performance enhancing drugs. There are physical conditioners who have a known affinity for these substances. Fighters who have tested positive for illegal PEDs should be asked under oath, “Where did the drugs come from? Who, what, how, when, and where?” We already know why.

The New York State Athletic Commission might try to wash its hands of Miller. The commission might say, “We denied Jarrell a license. He’s not a licensee. Therefore, we have no further jurisdiction over him.”

That would be consistent with the NYSAC looking the other way when Jermall and Jermell Charlo “missed” drug tests prior to fighting at Barclays Center last December.

The NYSAC might also feel that it doesn’t have counsel capable of properly handling the matter. Ryan Sakacs (who previously served as counsel to the commission) once served as a criminal prosecutor and has expertise in drug cases. The current commission counsel seems less suited to the task. But the NYSAC could reach beyond its immediate staff to find more experienced counsel in the New York State Department of State or Attorney General’s Office. The NYSAC could also reach out to Sakacs and retain his services on an hourly basis (which was his arrangement with the commission prior to his departure).

Promoters should encourage VADA testing to protect their clean fighters. In that regard, a special message is in order for Premier Boxing Champions and Al Haymon. They haven’t done the majority of their fighters any favors by steering them clear of meaningful VADA testing. What they have done is ensure that many PBC fighters are getting hit in the head harder than would otherwise be the case.

The television networks and streaming video channels that now provide the bulk of the money for boxing should require VADA testing for every fighter who appears in a main event or co-featured bout on their network.

The world sanctioning organizations should follow the lead of the World Boxing Council and institute drug-testing programs similar to the WBC Clean Boxing Program.

The media has to be more vigilant and more involved in exposing the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in boxing.

And most important, fighters should demand VADA testing. They’re the ones who are most at risk.

Right now, many elite fighters feel that they have to use performance enhancing drugs to be competitive against other fighters who are juicing. But as years pass, this escalation of weaponry will take a hideous toll on them.

Credible PED testing is expensive. It’s impractical to think that it can be put in place for every fighter and every fight. But spot testing is a partial deterrent. Some of the hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into boxing now by DAZN, ESPN, and Fox should be used to fund VADA PED-testing programs.

Talking about performance enhancing drugs several months ago, Jarrell Miller said, “Your life is on the line. Your career is at stake. Guys are gonna do what they gotta do.”

So a thought in closing.

The Bible tells us that Jesus told those who would stone an adulteress, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone (John, Chapter 8, Verse 7).

Let’s adapt that thought for today’s fighters: “He that is without sin among you, let him sign up for VADA testing.”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Protect Yourself at All Times – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Thomas Hauser is the author of 52 books. In 2005, he was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which bestowed the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism upon him. He was the first Internet writer ever to receive that award. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for boxing's highest honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lennox Lewis has observed, “A hundred years from now, if people want to learn about boxing in this era, they’ll read Thomas Hauser.”

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

When it comes to professional boxing down in the Tampa Bay area, Canadian transplant Garry Jonas is a one-man band.

The architect of the Wednesday Night Fights series, Jonas doesn’t have to pay a site fee for the shows that he promotes because he owns the venue. The shows that he stages at his Whitesands Events Center in Plant City air on his live streaming platform ProBoxTV. His series currently has only one sponsor, a bookmaking operation called SportsBetting.Ag., and he owns that too. (A self-styled serial entrepreneur, Jonas continued his assault on the established order last week with his purchase of the respected Boxing Scene website, but that’s a story best saved for another day.)

Jonas promotes high-grade club fights. When he started this venture, he promised entertaining, well-matched fights and tonight he delivered. The “A” side fighters in the co-main events were matched tough.

In the featured bout, lightweight Justin Pauldo (17-2, 1 NC) was upset by Mexico’s Miguel Madueno. Managed by Jolene Mazzone, the former VP and matchmaker for Main Events and trained by Ronnie Shields, Pauldo, a resident or nearby Orlando, was unbeaten in his last 12 heading in.

In his previous start, Madueno turned in a lackluster performance against surging Canadian campaigner Steve Claggett. His showing (he was 30-1 with 28 KOs heading in) was inconsistent with his record. Tonight, he was more pugnacious, out-working the man in front of him, a 4/1 favorite. The decision was split; 97-92 and 95-94 for Madueno, 95-94 for Pauldo. There were no knockdowns, but the Mexican had a point deducted in round 5 for leading with his head.

Co-Feature

The co-main was an entertaining 10-round light heavyweight affair in which Edgar Berlanga stablemate Najee Lopez improved to 10-0 (8) with a hard-earned majority decision over Marcos Escudero (14-3). One of the judges had it a draw (95-95) but he was overruled by his cohorts who had it 97-93 and 99-91.

Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent but was born and raised in the Atlanta area, hadn’t previously gone beyond six rounds. He was the house fighter. Named the 2023 Prospect of the Year by the ProBox team of TV commentators, Lopez was making his eighth appearance at Whitesands. Escudero, a South Florida-based Argentine had won four straight heading in at club shows in Delray Beach, FL after back-to-back setbacks in competitive fights with Joseph George.

Escudero, who did most of the leading, had many good moments. The 99-91 tally against the Argentine was a head-scratcher. (Commentator Paulie Malignaggi said the offending  judge, Alvaro Rodriguez, should have his fee withheld and be forced to serve a one-year suspension.)

Also

In an 8-round lightweight contest, former two-time Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 27-year-old Mongolian southpaw who began his pro career in China and now resides in southern California, improved to 9-0 (4) with a unanimous decision over Guinea-born Mohamed Soumaoro (11-3) who was a willing mixer but was out-classed. The scores were 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

As one would expect from a two-time Olympian, Erdenebat is a good technician who puts his punches together well, but doesn’t have a lot of power. If his name rings a bell, he’s the fellow who purportedly sent Ryan Garcia to the hospital from the effects of a body punch during a sparring session.

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Two Featherweight Title Fights Top a Strong Bill at Turning Stone on Saturday

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When Top Rank announced in December that they would be returning to Turning Stone Resort & Casino for an ESPN+ show on March 2nd featuring two featherweight world title fights they promised a deep action-packed show. Usually such words fall by the wayside as the event ultimately comes together but in this instance the docket is loaded from top to bottom with name attractions, undefeated prospects, local grudge matches and two very well-matched co-headliners.

In the first of the co-headliners, Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) makes the third defense of his IBF featherweight belt against Japan’s Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs). Lopez is a popular brawler whose aggressive style and lack of attention to defense usually makes for entertaining fights. Abe, a southpaw, is a slick boxer who is coming off a career best win against Kiko Martinez last April. Abe has a style similar to that of Ruben Villa who outboxed Lopez to a ten round unanimous decision win in 2019.

The co-headline finale is being contested for the vacant WBA featherweight title between Otabek Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KOs) and Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs). Both fighters were highly touted heading into the pro ranks. Ford has the speed advantage but Kholmatov has a big edge in power. Social media seems split right down the middle on this fight and oddsmakers agree installing Kholmatov as a very slight favorite as of this writing.

Also on this show is the return of the ever popular Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs) who bounced back from his first career defeat on Dec. 16 at a show in Guinea where he defeated a Frenchman with a 9-2-1 record (mysteriously, that fight isn’t yet listed on boxrec). He will face off against Luke Iannuccilli (7-0, 3 KOs). Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, will make his debut at Turning Stone Resort Casino in the same exact arena where his aunt and Boxing Hall of Famer Laila Ali made her professional boxing debut in October of 1999 with her legendary father sitting ringside. This will mark the fourth time a member of Muhammad Ali’s family has fought at Turning Stone.

The card also includes several contests featuring up-and-coming undefeated fighters. One match in particular to keep an eye on is an eight-round welterweight bout between a pair of unbeaten fighters in Rohan Polanco (11-0, 7 KOs) and Tarik Zaina (13-0-1, 8 KOs). Zaina opened some eyes last November when he defeated Marcelino Lopez and Polanco is coming off three consecutive wins against opponents who had a cumulative record of 39-3.

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t notate the local grudge match on the docket between Gerffred Ngayot (6-1, 5 KOs) of Buffalo and Bryce Mills (14-1, 5 KOs) of Syracuse. They are scheduled to face off in a six-round bout in the 140-pound division. They are on this show because each have solid local fan bases and matching them was a way to help fill the stands. Mills is a sharp accurate counterpuncher with all-around solid skills. Ngayot is an aggressive fighter who is not afraid to be first and fire away to the body. Stylistically this could turn into quite a barnburner and each have plenty of motivation to make a statement on what is a much bigger stage than they are accustomed to.

We are often quick to criticize those in the sport when cards come together that are seemingly either loaded with mismatches or bouts that just don’t pique much interest. This is an instance where those involved need to be applauded for putting together a card from top to bottom that will certainly give fans plenty of bang for their buck.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ Jake Paul and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, an influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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