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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posted a statement on social media that read, “I am absolutely devastated upon hearing the news my boxing license has been revoked in NY State and I will be vigorously appealing this decision.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.

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Tyson Fury Returns on Saturday with a Familiar Foe in the Opposite Corner

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“Tyson Fury made a name for himself last night, one that already has a ready-made ring about it and will be destined to become familiar in boxing.” Alan Hubbard, a ringside correspondent for The (London) Examiner wrote those words after Fury wrested the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles from Derek Chisora with a comprehensive 12-round decision on July 23, 2011.

Those words were prescient. Tyson Fury did go on to become a familiar name in the sport. Indeed, one could argue that at this moment in history no active boxer is more famous.

More than 11 full years have elapsed since Fury toppled Chisora. In the ensuing years, the Gypsy King outpointed Wladimir Klitschko in Germany to win the world heavyweight title, battled personal demons that sidelined him for two-and-half years, returned to the ring with a flourish, ultimately regaining the world heavyweight title, or at least a version of it, in the second chapter of his memorable trilogy with Deontay Wilder, and rising so high in the opinion of boxing enthusiasts that he would be favored over any other boxer on the planet.

Oh, and lest we forget, since defeating Chisora in 2011, Fury whipped Chisora again, stopping him after 10 one-sided frames in 2014. Fury’s eight-inch height advantage enabled him to control the distance vs. “Dell Boy” who was never knocked down but who absorbed a great deal of punishment before his chief second said, “no mas.”

A third meeting between Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs) and the soon-to-be-39-year-old Chisora (33-12) would seem to be superfluous. Del Boy, coming off a narrow win over Kubrat Pulev, has lost three of his last four. But on Saturday, Dec. 3, they will go at it again. The venue is London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, capacity 62,850, and by all indications, despite a chill in the air (the temperature is expected to hover around 40 degrees), there won’t be too many empty seats.

For promoter Frank Warren, Fury vs Chisora is Plan B – he was hoping to match Fury against Anthony Joshua – but he believes that Fury has become so popular that he can make a tidy profit no matter who is in the opposite corner. The Gypsy King, once referenced as the enfant terrible of British boxing, has toned down his rhetoric (one might say that he proactively distanced himself from Kanye West) and become almost cuddly, a source of inspiration for many Brits, the first member of the black sheep Traveler community about whom this could ever be said.

Fury, needless to say, is a heavy favorite. The odds are in the 25/1 range. The co-feature is likewise looked upon as a mismatch. Daniel Dubois, who shares the diluted WBA heavyweight title with Oleksandr Usyk, is a consensus 16/1 favorite over Kevin Lerena (28-1, 19 KOs) who rides in on a 17-fight winning streak. The six-foot-one Lerena carried a career-high 234 pounds for his last assignment against ancient Mariusz Wach, but the South African southpaw has fought most of his career as a cruiserweight.

The undercard includes featherweight Isaac Lowe, Tyson Fury’s bosom buddy, and Hosea Burton, Fury’s cousin, both of whom appear to be matched soft in scheduled six-rounders, plus 18-year-old phenom Royston Barney Smith in a 4-rounder against a transplanted Nicaraguan.

This is a pay-per-view event in the UK, but U.S. fight fans who subscribe to ESPN+ can see it for free. The ring walks for the main event are expected to go about 4 pm ET.

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What Path will Yokasta Valle Choose Next?

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After the recent controversial ruling that made her a world champion in three different divisions, the fans of the Costa Rican Yokasta Valle are wondering: What path will the successful boxer choose next?

On Saturday, November 26th, in a fight of continuous exchanges with the then undefeated Argentine Evelyn Bermúdez (17-1-1, 6 KOs), “Yoka” Valle (27-2, 9 KOs) came out with her arm raised at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, where she won the IBF and WBO belts, which Bermúdez was defending for the seventh and second time, respectively.

Although the Costa Rican fighter (pictured on the right) went on the attack for practically the entire 10 rounds, the exchanges were even, give and take, with good moments for both fighters, which made it difficult to evaluate each round. Hence the discomfort of many fans, especially in the Bermúdez camp, with the card of judge Adalaide Byrd (99-91), which apparently had Bermúdez prevailing in only one round. Neither did Judge Daniel Sandoval’s card (97-93) represent what transpired in the ring, while Zachary Young’s score of 95-95 was more accurate, distributing five rounds for each combatant.

In the case of Byrd, she also received innumerable criticism in the first fight between Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, which was held in September 2017 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and which ended with a favorable scorecard for each boxer and another of 114-114.

At that time, Byrd had judged more than 400 fights over a 20-year span, and her discordant scorecard of 118-110 reflected Canelo winning 10 rounds and GGG only two (the fourth and the seventh). Dave Moretti leaned towards Golovkin (115-113), while Don Trella (114-114) saw it even.

CHAMPION IN THREE CATEGORIES

Born in Matagalpa, Nicaragua on August 28, 1992 and living in Costa Rica since her childhood, Valle made her boxing debut at the age of 22 in the light flyweight category. In that first experience at the pro level, she defeated Mexican María Guadalupe Gómez by unanimous decision in four rounds, on July 26, 2014, in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Two years later, in her twelfth fight, she conquered the IBF title at 102 pounds by split decision against Ana Victoria Polo in San José, Costa Rica. In December 2017, Valle suffered her first professional failure against the local Naoko Fujioka, who won by unanimous decision at Korakuén Hall in Tokyo where they fought for the vacant WBO light flyweight belt.

Six months later, on June 16, 2018, Valle lost again by unanimous decision against German Christina Rupprecht (11-0-1, 3 KOs) in Munich, a duel that was for the WBO strawweight interim belt. Rupprecht maintains that belt and is again in Valle’s sights.

Following those two setbacks, “Yoka” Valle compiled 14 victories, including the one she obtained in Marbella against Spaniard Joana Pastrana in August 2019, which she won by split decision securing the IBF 105-pound belt.

More recently, on September 8th in Costa Rica, Valle became a two-division champion at 105 pounds, by unanimously prevailing (the three judges scored the fight 100-90) over Vietnamese Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen, who ceded the WBO title. And then with her success against Bermúdez last weekend, Valle made history in Costa Rican boxing by adding her third crown in three different divisions (102, 105 and 108 pounds).

WHERE WILL YOKASTA VALLE GO NEXT?

Valle, who now owns two light flyweight titles (IBF and WBO) could next go in search of unification with Mexican Jéssica Nery (WBA super champion) or with Canadian Kim Clavel, who holds the WBC title. (Clavel and Nery collide on Thursday in Laval, Quebec.)

However, a more viable option would be to return to 105 pounds and seek a fight with American Seniesa Estrada (23-0, 9 KOs), who maintains the WBA belt, or with Rupprecht, who remains unbeaten. That seemed to be Valle’s immediate objective, as she affirmed it in the ring after defeating Nguyen. In an indirect reference to Seniesa Estrada and Tina Rupprecht, Valle said “I want the belts. I’ve been saying it from the beginning, I want the WBC and WBA next, whoever has ’em.”

At Friday’s weigh-in for her fight with Bermúdez, Valle stated “I want to fight the best. I want to be undisputed. When Tina (Rupprecht) and Seniesa (Estrada) were not available, my team and I made the decision to move up in weight and challenge Evelyn for her world title belts. I have to fight. [MarvNation CEO] Marvin Rodriguez presented this fight to me. This is the type of fight I want. It is champion versus champion. I want to give the fans these types of fights.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kim Clavel caught the flu and pulled out on Wednesday just prior to the weigh-in. Her match with Jessica Nery was rescheduled for Jan. 13.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish

Please note any adjustments made for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Regis Prograis Knocks Out José Zepeda and Clears the Way for José Ramírez

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American Regis Prograis had to wait three years and a month for the opportunity to hold a world crown once again. On Saturday, November 26, at the Dignity Health Sports Park, in Carson, California, Prograis faced José Zepeda for the vacant WBC junior welterweight belt. Prograis was victorious by applying chloroform to Zepeda in the eleventh round.

Previously, on October 26, 2019, Prograis (28-1, 24 KOs) had lost the WBA junior welterweight belt by majority decision to Scotsman Josh Taylor at the 02 Arena in England.

Since then, the thirty-three-year-old Prograis who is based in Houston, Texas has obtained four wins (including vs Zepeda), all before the limit, as proof of the devilish power of his powerful fists, especially the left one.

Prior to the duel with Zepeda (35-2, 27 KOs), most experts favored Prograis, who after winning the intense battle, recognized that it was the most demanding fight of his career. “That dude is tough, tough, tough. He came to fight, he probably gave me one of my hardest fights, I’m not even gonna lie,” said Prograis. “This dude is tough, bro. I’ve got so much respect for you. You prepared me to get this belt and hold this belt. I congratulate you. All the best to you, bro. Don’t stop, I feel like you can still be a world champion.”

Almost from the very beginning of the fight, Prograis showed greater speed with his hands and legs, and a general sense of technical superiority over Zepeda, who in the second round opened up a wound above his left eye with a legal blow.

From then on, Prograis’s strong impacts gradually undermined Zepeda’s resistance. Zepeda arrived totally exhausted in the eleventh round, where he received a straight left to the face, putting him in poor condition. A run with both fists from Prograis knocked him down and referee Ray Corona called the match with 59 seconds remaining in the round. This is the first setback that Zepeda has suffered by knockout in professional boxing.

On several occasions, Prograis has stated that he wants revenge against the undefeated Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs), but now, by order of the WBC, he must face American José Carlos Ramírez (27-1, 17 KOs).

Ramírez, 30 years old, is currently ranked second by the WBC. In February of 2019, in his second defense of his 140-pound belt, he defeated Zepeda by majority decision.

Twenty-five months later, Ramírez succumbed by unanimous decision to Taylor at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, enabling the Scotsman to become the undisputed king of the category by winning the four most prestigious belts (WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF).

Recently, Ramírez expressed an interest in dueling with the main 140-pound contenders, including a second fight with Zepeda; although he did not rule out clashing with Prograis or Taylor. “Every fighter has the same amount of risk,” said Ramirez. “We’re a little under-promoted compared to other weight classes but I think that the best fights are at 140. You see guys fighting twice or three times, doing a trilogy. Honestly, I would love to face Regis, because I’ve never faced him. I would love to make the rematch with Zepeda, because he’s such a good fighter. Obviously I want Josh Taylor, man. I want Josh Taylor bad.”

Photo credit: Al Applerose

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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