2. Jarrell Miller Fails Drug Tests, Heavyweight Title Shot Over
Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s U.S. debut took a turn for the worse when it was announced that Jarrell Miller, his planned opponent for June 1, tested positive for not one, not two, but three banned substances and one of them Miller tested positive for twice.
Miller tested positive for the substances GW1516 (also known as GW501516 and Endurobol), Human Growth Hormones (HGH) and EPO from urine exams conducted in March. As a result of those exams, the New York State Athletic Commission has declined Miller a license to fight Joshua on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.
This isn’t the first time a notable heavyweight has failed a drug test before a title fight, and he will most likely not be the last, but the shocking thing about this entire situation is the extent of how much he was cheating. It’s rare for a world-class boxer to fail a drug test while preparing for his first world title challenge, but failing for three different substances is almost unprecedented.
The New York native certainly tried his best to play the heel in the buildup to the fight against Joshua, making obscene comments directed at Joshua’s mother and accusing the unbeaten champion of being on the juice without presenting any actual evidence. The press conferences were ugly, barbaric and to some, hurt the fight’s value than actually help it. The way Miller approached the buildup was similar to how Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. approached the buildup to their 2017 fight, which was also horrible, crude and filled with sophomoric nonsense. But since that fight was a commercial success, some fighters try to take that same approach believing that they will have similar success.
How ironic that it was Miller shooting himself in the foot multiple times that ended his title aspirations before he stepped into the ring.
At first, Miller, though his official social media accounts, denied the notion that he knowingly took any banned substances. After it was revealed that he tested positive for HGH, EPO and GW1516 a second time, Miller took a more direct approach in regards to a response statement and posted a one-minute video admitting to making mistakes.
"A lot can be said right now. I'm going straight to the point. I messed up. I messed up, I made a bad call. There's a lot of ways to handle a situation. I handled it wrongly and I'm paying the price for it. I missed out on a big opportunity and I'm hurting on the side. My heart is bleeding right now. I hurt my family, my friends, my team, my supporters, but I'm going to own up to it. I'm going to deal with it. I'm going to correct it and I'm going to come back better and I'm humbled by the experience. I understand how to handle certain things. I'm going to leave it as that. I love you guys and I appreciate you guys out there. Fighters, we go through a lot and I don't want to make a bad name for ourselves. It's time to do right and get right," Miller said.
The full lineup for the June 1 show is being left untouched until something can be done about the main event. The only other fight that was formally announced, less than 24 hours before the news about Miller’s failed drug tests, was a fight between Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon to crown an undisputed women’s lightweight champion.
As a co-main event, it ranks up there as one of the best in the DAZN/Matchroom Boxing USA era. Taylor is a brilliant boxer who is rarely in a boring fight, even if it is a one-sided affair (and it usually is). Persoon is undoubtedly the biggest challenger of Taylor’s career, a true top 10, arguably top five, pound-for-pound fighter in women’s boxing.
But now the biggest question becomes, ‘Who will replace Miller on June 1?’ There are a couple of names still available that could fight Joshua, but that list is getting shorter almost every day.
Initially, there were five boxers that were on promoter Eddie Hearn’s and Joshua’s watchlist that could replace Miller: Luis Ortiz, Adam Kownacki, Kubrat Pulev, Michael Hunter and Manuel Charr.
Kownacki was the first name crossed out of the list almost immediately after his team stated that they will not face Joshua and that they have a plan in place for Kownacki to fight for a world title someday. Ortiz was seriously considered, but his team refused what is being reported by Boxing Scene a $5 million payday (easily Ortiz’s biggest purse for a fight) when his team asked for $10 million. Ortiz’s manager Jay Jimenez posted on social media that they felt disrespected by Hearn’s “low ball offer” for a shot at Joshua’s WBA “Super,” WBO and IBF titles. In the cases of both Kownacki and Ortiz, the two fighters are under the assumption that they are going to get a shot at WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in the future, but in this day and age, one should never operate on assumptions and promises when it comes to a future world title opportunity as plans can easily change for better or worse.
As for the other three, Pulev was taken out of the running from the start as he is still indefinitely suspended for his unwarranted kiss on a female reporter after his win against Bogdan Dinu back on March 23. Charr, the WBA “Regular” heavyweight has claimed that he had at least some negotiations with Hearn’s team to make the fight possible, but nothing has really happened between both sides, meaning that talks fell through.
The means Michael Hunter is the one out of that initial group of five that is still available. Hunter has won four straight since losing to Oleksandr Usyk in a failed attempt at the WBO cruiserweight title years back, but has look great since making the jump to heavyweight.
There is another former world title challenger ready to challenge Joshua who is still in the running as a late entrant: Andy Ruiz Jr. Ruiz defeated Alexander Dimitrenko on a PBC on Fox card on April 20 and stated that he is ready to face Joshua if need be. Ruiz would be a fairly decent name as a replacement, given that he once challenged for the WBO heavyweight title back in 2016 when he lost a close decision against Joseph Parker.
Regardless, the next week will be crucial to figuring out who will Joshua face. His U.S. debut could go a long way to helping DAZN establish itself as a real player in the American boxing broadcast market and the June 1 show is one of their most important shows of the year.
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