Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Jarrell Miller, PED penalties, bantamweight greats, best resumes ever)
BIG BABY NEEDS A DIAPER CHANGE
I hope this email finds you and yours well. I’m loving the return of live boxing! I’ve seen some fans complaining about mismatches, but I say you can’t have upsets without them. Additionally, these aren’t PPV cards, so why not give these guys a break?
The reason I’m writing is to get your take on Big Baby Miller. In a world that seems to continually give people an endless supply of chances, does this guy deserve another one? He’s obviously aware of what he’s doing at this point, so even if he gets another chance do you believe he’ll stay clean?
I’m bummed about him, because he seemed like a likeable/marketable guy who also had skills to compete at the highest level. With his future beyond muddy, do you believe he’ll ever make it back to viable threat?
Assuming, he isn’t banned for life I think a complete gutting of his current team would be the first step toward redemption. Is that unfair? My take is that he lacks confidence in his current training and that’s why he tries to cheat. Do you think his team is/was aware? Are penalties often handed out on trainers in these instances?
With Miller out for a while, who do you think is the best hope at heavyweight for the U.S.? Thanks. – Scott
Deontay Wilder will be 35 in October and he was thrashed in his last fight, but he’s still the biggest offensive threat in the heavyweight division. Just because Tyson Fury might have his number doesn’t mean any other top heavyweight will have his way with the Alabama native. The Bronze Bomber is contractually guaranteed a third fight with The Ring/WBC champ, so he’s still a player in the three-way battle for heavyweight supremacy. Even if Fury beat him again, my guess is that most fans would still view a showdown between the American and unified beltholder Anthony Joshua as 50-50.
After Wilder, I’d say Andy Ruiz Jr. is the most dangerous (offensively speaking) heavyweight in the game (and the Southern Californian had the chin to go with his fast, heavy hands), and the best American ring general is probably Michael Hunter, the former cruiserweight title challenger who is now Ring ranked (No. 8) among the big dogs. I think Hunter, unbeaten in seven heavyweight bouts vs. solid opposition (and I thought he deserved the nod vs. Povetkin), has earned his ranking and can play the spoiler role vs. any top contender that views him as undersized.
The rest of the American heavyweights are either prospects, untested hopefuls, or gatekeepers.
The reason I’m writing is to get your take on Big Baby Miller. In a world that seems to continually give people an endless supply of chances, does this guy deserve another one? No. He failed a state commission test as a kickboxer (which coincided with his pro boxing career), he refused to participate in the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program, tested positive for THREE banned substances (all three performance enhancers) the first time he was tested by VADA (prior to the biggest fight of his career and a bona-fide big event, so he knew he was in the spotlight with all the scrutiny that comes with that position), he got lucky the New York commission didn’t want to bother with his case and let him slip through a legal loophole, he was snatched up by a major promoter (Top Rank, which is partnered up with a global sports network and co-promotes heavyweight star Tyson Fury, so he was likely going to get a high-profile crack at the lineal/Ring/WBC champ if he could stay off the juice) but he STILL couldn’t keep his nose clean. The boxing industry was more than willing to look the other way after he screwed up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity AND it was willing to pave the way for him to receive ANOTHER once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he was too screwed up to play by the rules.
He’s obviously aware of what he’s doing at this point, so even if he gets another chance do you believe he’ll stay clean? No. I think he’s got a character defect in that he believes he needs help to get his body into a certain level of condition. Call it insecurity or laziness or whatever, but I think it’s part of his lifestyle, or part of his training culture. And I don’t believe he thinks clearly when he puts this stuff into his body because it’s not healthy.
According to Victor Conte, GW1516 is a “black market” chemical substance that is sold for “research purposes” only. It’s an oral PED (known as Endurabol) that WADA classifies as a “metabolic modulator” and was originally developed in the 1990s to treat obesity and other metabolic disorders. However, according to Conte, “it was found to rapidly cause cancer in multiple organs in animals. It is illegal to use this non-FDA approved chemical as a medication.”
My response to Conte’s comments: Get Miller out of boxing. He’s a danger to his opponents and to himself. No boxing, no need for him to put dangerous chemicals in his body in the pursuit of a competitive edge.
I’m bummed about him, because he seemed like a likeable/marketable guy who also had skills to compete at the highest level. The dude has personality and talent. The gift of gab and jab. But I’m over him. There are other talented personalities in the heavyweight division. It doesn’t need a Big Baby.
With his future beyond muddy, do you believe he’ll ever make it back to viable threat? No, but with his size, bombastic character, and self-destructive behavior, he might want to give the WWE a shot.
Assuming, he isn’t banned for life I think a complete gutting of his current team would be the first step toward redemption. Is that unfair? I don’t think it makes a difference. Even if his current team knew about it and encouraged it, he’s ultimately responsible for his actions. If he was against using PEDs he would have left his team. He’s obviously not, and he’s not going to be honest with a new team.
My take is that he lacks confidence in his current training and that’s why he tries to cheat. OK. Makes sense. But are you suggesting that if he had an “improved” training situation that he wouldn’t feel the need to use illegal performance-enhancers? Because if you are, I disagree.
Do you think his team is/was aware? I have no idea. But I do know this: He’s the boss. Nobody tells that guy what to do.
Are penalties often handed out on trainers in these instances? In other sports, yes (and some of these trainers have made successful transitions to boxing). I’m not aware of any high-profile PED-related penalties involving a boxing coach.
Sucks to hear about Jarrell Miller getting popped again. I was a fan before the AJ fight, but these PED busts just show he’s a fraud. To make boxing (and combat sports generally) safer, I was thinking a model like this may make things better:
- First offense*- 18 month suspension,
- *but if you cooperate on your first offense & are cleared of any intent (legitimate tainted supplements or the like), a 9 month suspension instead;
- Second offense- 3 year suspension; and then
- Third offense- lifetime ban.
I feel like if the sport wants to get serious about PEDs, it needs some level of strict liability and suspensions that count. When guys can get off for saying they accidentally ingested something, the responsibility to be clean is not strong enough. And when guys get six month suspensions for using when they only fight once or twice a year, the punishment is too short. I know you’ve said The Ring is putting together a panel on PEDs for ratings purposes, but what do you think of the above proposal for commissions to apply for suspension purposes? Best regards. – Homer
It’s as good a policy as I’ve heard from anyone, Homer, but even if you could wave a magic wand and get the boxing commissions in every U.S. jurisdiction (or even the world) to adopt your PED penalty model AND grow the balls to stand up to all the law suits that would come their way as a result, I still think doping would be problem because comprehensive and reliable testing is limited. Part of the reason for that is that it costs money, which isn’t an obstacle to the tiny percentage of top contenders/titleholders/stars, but most boxers – amateur and pro – don’t have a lot money.
Let’s face it, when we hear about a boxer testing positive for a banned substance, nine out of 10 times it was the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) that revealed it to the world (rarely does this kind of news come from a state-commission test, and almost never from USADA). The WBC has helped the cause by funding VADA through its Clean Boxing Program (CBP) and putting pressure on all of its titleholders and ranked contenders to sign up for the program, but it’s not enough funding for VADA to conduct frequent random out-of-competition tests on everybody enrolled in the CBP.
Meanwhile, amateur boxers are seldom tested. The only time I ever hear about an amateur boxer being tested for WADA-banned substances are the elite-level/national team members that make it to the world boxing amateur championships and Olympic tournaments, and the out-of-competition drug testing for top amateurs is shoddy even during the year prior to the Summer Games. And testing beyond the state commission-conducted piss samples is almost non-existent at the preliminary (four-to-eight round) level of the professional ranks.
An organization like VADA needs the financial support of everybody involved in boxing – the networks, promoters, managers, media, fighters, trainers, and yes, YOU, the fans need to contribute whatever you can. I know I’ve said this before. I say it every time a high-profile boxer is busted and I’m going to continue to do so. And I know it pisses some of you off. You feel like fans already empty too much of their pockets just to watch live boxing. You feel like it’s not your responsibility. You just want to watch the fights. I get it. But a lot of you also want to point the finger and pass judgement. A lot of you have all kinds of angst and outrage about who has used PEDs and who might be using PEDs. You get really loud and up-in-arms over this subject (even though some of you don’t keep that same energy for every fighter that tests positive). Well, if you really want to know who is putting what into their bodies, and you really care about a “level playing field” in boxing, you need VADA to not only exist but THRIVE.
And the more widespread the testing and the earlier in the boxers’ careers the testing can begin the better. Think about it: Most of us cultivate our vices and bad habits – drugs, cheating, etc. – while we’re still kids or teenagers. It would be educational and send a strong message to kids and teens if they experienced anti-doping testing while they are still competing for trophies at the regional level of amateur boxing.
So, do the sport and your favorite Editor-In-Chief a favor and visit the VADA website and Facebook page and inquire about how you can set up monthly (tax-deductible) donation to a very worthy non-profit organization.
First offense*- 18 month suspension. OK, but what if they claim contamination and prove it (as some boxers and MMA fighters have)? What if the banned substance they test positive for is marijuana or some other recreational (non-performance enhancing) drug? (What if they’ve got one hell of a legal team and aren’t afraid to sue the commission or sanctioning body?)
*but if you cooperate on your first offense & are cleared of any intent (legitimate tainted supplements or the like), a 9 month suspension instead. I like that you included this. Full cooperation in the investigations are rare, especially when lawyers repping the fighter get involved.
Second offense- 3 year suspension. Sounds good. You gotta figure, innocent or guilty the first time, that fighter will do everything in his or her power to educate themselves in order to either avoid accidentally ingesting PEDs or to avoid getting caught. You get caught again, you’re either really unlucky or a f__king slob.
Third offense- lifetime ban. Sounds good. And I can see some commissions and sanctioning bodies adopting this stance, but I doubt we’ll ever see international uniformity with a PED penalty policy this strict.
BANTAMWEIGHT GREATS, HEAVYWEIGHT MYTHICAL MATCHUPS
Who do you consider the greatest bantamweight of all time? I have been reading about Eder Jofre, Panama Al Brown and George Dixon. Despite being a huge boxing fan, they were not names I was familiar with.
How does history rate champions from the 80s Orlando Canizales and Jeff Fenech? Fenech was hugely popular here in Australia, but his best years were before my time as a fan.
Tyson vs Foreman 1990
Ali vs Louis (surprising I have never seen anyone ask)
Frank Bruno vs Max Baer
Frans Botha vs Roland LaStarza
Dempsey vs Moorer
Thanks mate. – Will
Your mythical matchups:
Tyson vs Foreman 1990 – Big George by late TKO. Tyson’s life was in turmoil and he wasn’t training (or receiving instruction) like he had during his peak years (1987-‘89) in 1990 (the year he was upset by Buster Douglas; and the back-to-back first-round stoppages of the scared-stiff duo of Henry Tillman and Alex Stewart did not prove that he had regained his mojo). Meanwhile, Foreman’s second career was just hitting its stride in 1990 as he fought five times, including impressive two-round stoppages of a dialed-in Gerry Cooney (who nailed him with some monstrous hooks and body shots in the opening round) and sanctioning body-ranked Adilson Rodrigues. (Cooney was trained by Gil Clancy for the Foreman bout and Rodrigues had Angelo Dundee in his corner, both hall-of-fame trainers were sold on Big George after those bouts. By the way, Foreman-Rodrigues was part of an HBO-televised doubleheader featuring Tyson-Tillman in the main event. It was a Bob Arum-Don King co-promotion billed as a possible set-up for a Tyson-Foreman showdown. Foreman and Arum wanted that fight. King was into the idea until Foreman smashed the Brazilian, then… not so much.) That fight and the year of 1990 helped prepare Foreman for his bold stand against the peak-heavyweight version of Evander Holyfield in April 1991 (where Big George proved that he’d finally conquered the stamina issues that plagued him in his youth). Had they fought in 1990, I think Foreman would have survived a vicious early round assault from Tyson, getting marked up, rocked, wobbled, but not dropped (as his greater weight and Archie Moore-taught crossarm defense protects him from Iron Mike’s heat-seeking missiles). He’d earn respect (and some room on the inside) with some heavy uppercuts, push Tyson off with those massive arms and catch the Brooklynite with his deceptively quick telephone-pole jab as the shorter, much-lighter former champ tried to close ground again. I think the combination of the “shove-off,” heavy jabs and sneaky right hands get Tyson drunk by the late rounds when the old man mugs him.
Ali vs Louis (surprising I have never seen anyone ask) – Ali survives a couple wobbly moments, maybe even a hard knockdown – one early, one late – en route to outpointing the Brown Bomber by close UD.
Frank Bruno vs Max Baer – Baer by mid-to-late stoppage.
Frans Botha vs Roland LaStarza – LaStarza by unanimous decision.
Dempsey vs Moorer – Dempsey, either by early KO or come-from-behind stoppage.
Who do you consider the greatest bantamweight of all time? It’s between Manuel Ortiz and Ruben Olivares in my opinion. During his peak years (1942-’44), Ortiz was almost unbeatable at 118 pounds and featherweight (only a fellow ATG in Willie Pep would edge him during this time). From 1965 (his pro career began in January of that year) through 1971, Olivares compiled a record of 69-1-1 (62 KOs), losing only to Chucho Castillo (in October 1970), who he outpointed earlier that year and would outpoint again in 1971. Olivares also beat Lionel Rose (for the bantamweight title in August 1969) and several top contenders from around the world, including Salvador Burruni, Alan Rudkin, Efren Torres, Jesus “Little Poison” Pimentel and Jose Medel. “Rock-a-bye Ruben” was a great puncher and boxer (and a bona-fide Mexican idol).
I have been reading about Eder Jofre, Panama Al Brown and George Dixon. Despite being a huge boxing fan, they were not names I was familiar with. Jofre, who only lost to Fighting Harada (two very close fights in Japan) at bantamweight is right up there with Ortiz and Olivares. I won’t argue with anyone who views the Brazilian legend as the GOAT at 118 pounds. He was an amazing technician who could also punch. Brown, who won 132 bouts and took on top contenders from 1924-’35, is the first Latino world champion. He made 10 defenses of the bantamweight title. Dixon, from Nova Scotia, Canada, is the first black world champion. He was more accomplished at featherweight than he was at bantamweight. Dixon was respected for his skill and savvy among his fellow boxers and aficionados. Brown was very popular in France, Montreal and Spain.
How does history rate champions from the 80s Orlando Canizales and Jeff Fenech? They’re both in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Canizales broke Ortiz’s bantamweight title defense record by retaining the IBF belt 16 times. The Texan was a complete boxer-puncher. Fenech was a force of nature, a relentless, once-in-a-lifetime talent who was only held back by brittle hands. He won the IBF bantamweight title in his seventh pro bout, but he only made three defenses of the title (the last one vs. 1984 Olympic gold
medalist Steve McCrory). Fenech was more accomplished at junior featherweight and featherweight (where he also won world titles and beat fellow hall of famers Daniel Zaragoza and Carlos Zarate).
Fenech was hugely popular here in Australia, but his best years were before my time as a fan. He was a beast and he should have received the decision vs. the great Azumah Nelson in their first fight in 1991, which would have made him a four-division titleholder.
Quick question: In your opinion, which fighters have the best resumes in boxing history?
Ali, Armstrong, Ezzard Charles, Robinson and Holyfield come to my mind.
Could you make your top five? Thanks – André
Honestly, Andre, I can’t give you my top five without doing A LOT of research. There are so many amazing resumes dating back to the turn of the last century. You can’t go wrong with the five men you noted, although Charles sometimes gets left out of the top 10-20 of the ATG lists. But you and I know that anyone with three victories over Archie Moore (including an eighth-round KO), two wins over Charley Burley (back-to-back decisions at middleweight), three decisions over Joey Maxim, three out of four vs. Jimmy Bivins (including a fourth-round KO), two out of three vs. Lloyd Marshall and splitting four heavyweight bouts with Jersey Joe Walcott has got one of the best resumes ever.
There are modern greats who made the most of their careers, which seem abbreviated when compared to the legends of the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, in part because they had three year periods when they faced the best of their eras – I’m thinking of Sugar Ray Leonard (for his 1979-’81 run that included Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Ayub Kalule for good measure), Pernell Whitaker (for his 1993-’95 run that included his welterweight title-winning effort vs. Buddy McGirt, the infamous “draw” with Julio Cesar Chavez, the McGirt rematch, and 154-pound title win over Julio Cesar Vazquez to become a four-division champ), and Manny Pacquiao (who’s tear from 2008-2010 saw him earn world-title recognition at 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154 pounds, including a split-nod over Juan Manuel Marquez, and stoppages of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto). These resumes hold up against the best of all times.
But I’d like to bring five old-timers to your attention: Sam Langford, Jimmy McLarnin, Mickey Walker, Tony Canzoneri and Barney Ross.
Feel free to look up these standouts from the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s, as well as their notable opponents (whose resumes were almost as decorated – arguably better in the case of Harry Greb and Walker).
Langford, a legendary black fighter from Nova Scotia, Canada, faced the best of his era (1900s-‘10s) – from lightweight to heavyweight – including ATGs Joe Gans (W 15), Barbados Joe Walcott (D 15 – with the welterweight title on the line), Stanley Ketchel (ND-W 6), Tiger Flowers (KO 2), and Jack Johnson (L 15). Langford, who notched 181 wins (127 by KO), faced all the top black heavyweights of his day despite being 5-foot-8.
McLarnin, who was born in Ireland but raised in Canada, turned pro at age 16 at flyweight and matured into the welterweight champ. He was world class from 112 to 147 pounds during the 1920s and ’30s, eventually facing 12 fellow hall of famers (listed in the order he fought them): Fidel LaBarba (three times, two wins, one draw), Pancho Villa (W 10), Charles “Bud” Taylor (L10), Louis “Kid” Kaplan (KO 6), Sammy Mandell (2-1 in three bouts), Billy Petrolle (2-1), Lou Brouillard (L 10), Benny Leonard (TKO 6), Young Corbett III (KO 1 – for the welterweight title), Barney Ross (1-2 with the welterweight title on the line), Tony Canzoneri (1-1), and Lou Ambers (W 10).
Walker was only 5-foot-7 but the two-division champ (welterweight and middleweight) took on top light heavyweights and heavyweights of the 1920 and ’30s. He battled hall of famers in four weight classes: welterweight (Jack Britton, Dave Shade and Young Corbett III), middleweight (Lou Brouillard, Harry Greb and Tiger Flowers), light heavyweight (Paul Berlenback, Maxie Rosenbloom and Tommy Loughran), and heavyweight (Jack Sharkey and Max Schmeling).
Canzoneri was a three-division champ (featherweight, lightweight and junior welterweight) when that really meant something (‘20s and ’30s) and he finished his career with 137 wins. The Louisiana-based Italian American fought 10 hall of famers: Bud Taylor (three times, twice with the bantamweight title on the line), Benny Bass, Sammy Mandell, Jackie “Kid” Berg (thrice), Billy Petrolle (twice), Kid Chocolate (twice), Barney Ross (twice), Lou Ambers (thrice), Jimmy CLarnin (twice) and Johnny Dundee (for the vacant featherweight title in 1927). He also faced several champs (including Al Singer and Jackie Jadick and Battling Shaw) and top contenders not in the HOF.
And, finally, Ross, who finished his distinguished career with the 72-4-3 record (and was never stopped). Like Canzoneri (who was only stopped once in 175 bouts, his last fight vs. Al “Bummy” Davis), Ross was a three-division champ (lightweight, junior welter and welterweight). He scored victories vs. fellow HOFers McLarnin (2-1), Canzoneri (twice), Petrolle (twice) and Battling Battalino; and defeated future middleweight titleholder Ceferino Garcia three times. His last bout was a loss to the great Henry Armstrong.
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