Top Rank, ‘Big Baby’ finalize co-promotional deal

Heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, aiming to reinvigorate his career after multiple failed drug tests last year that cost him a world title shot and millions of dollars, has finalized a co-promotional deal with Top Rank.

Terms were not disclosed for the deal, which had been in the works for months and nearly fell apart two weeks ago before being agreed to on Tuesday. It will bring Miller’s bouts to ESPN platforms as part of the network’s deal with Top Rank, which comes on board to promote Miller along with Dmitriy Salita and Greg Cohen.

“All parties have signed off on the agreement,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN. “There is no set date for his comeback. We are currently reviewing the schedule.”

The three promoters, Miller and his new manager, James Prince, had finally agreed to all the terms and were due to sign the agreement two weeks ago in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Salita Promotions and Top Rank were putting on events on back-to-back nights.

But after all the details had been ironed out, Salita went back to Top Rank chairman Bob Arum in an attempt to renegotiate elements of the agreement, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN. An irate Arum washed his hands of the deal, but cooler heads eventually prevailed and they signed the original agreement.

Miller was so upset by the situation in Atlantic City that, according to sources, he had a physical altercation with Salita, who has promoted Miller since early in his pro career in what has long been a rocky relationship.

Salita declined to discuss the difficulties in getting the deal signed or any physical confrontation with Miller but said he was happy the agreement was done and that he looked forward to Miller’s return to the ring.

“Top Rank — Bob Arum — was my first promoter when I was fighting, so I have seen as a fighter how they operate,” said Salita, a former pro welterweight. “They’re very professional, a top-tier company. With their matchmaking and marketing, they get the fighters the biggest opportunities, and I know they will do that for Jarrell. Bob Arum is a living legend and I am glad he has seen the potential Jarrell has and I know he will get him the biggest opportunities possible.

“Top Rank promotes Tyson Fury, and with the way he can talk and fight and with the way Jarrell can talk and fight, if they both continue to be successful, that will be a mega event in the near future.”

Initially, the plan was for Miller to return on Feb. 22, likely against former world title challenger Carlos Takam, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to fight on the pay-per-view undercard of the heavyweight world championship rematch between titlist Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Fury. But because it took so long for the co-promotional deal to be signed, it was too late to add Miller to the show. When he will return has not been determined.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs), 31, of Brooklyn, New York, has not fought since he knocked out then-undefeated Bogdan Dinu in the fourth round on Nov. 17, 2018, in Mulvane, Kansas.

Miller was then tapped to challenge England’s Anthony Joshua for his three world title belts on June 1, when Joshua would make his American debut at Madison Square Garden in New York.

However, Miller was dropped from the fight about month beforehand because the New York State Athletic Commission refused to issue him a boxing license after he failed four Voluntary Anti-Doping Association-administered random drug tests for three different banned substances — GW1516, humane growth hormone and EPO — over the span of a few days.

Andy Ruiz Jr. famously took Miller’s place on short notice and made history with a monumental upset victory, as he knocked Joshua out in the seventh round to win the belts before losing them via a one-sided decision in their rematch on Dec. 7.

After the failed tests, Miller initially denied knowingly taking any banned substances. But he later recanted and acknowledged taking them in a video he posted to social media.

“This is your boy ‘Big Baby’ Miller here,” an emotional Miller said at the time. “A lot can be said right now. I gonna 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’m gonna 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 and I don’t want to make it a bad name for ourselves. It’s time to do right and get right. So I thank you guys.”

Even with the admission, Miller has yet to go before a state athletic commission to be questioned about his drug use. Despite doing some interviews, Miller has yet to fully come clean about his overall drug use history. He has not admitted to the number of failed tests, said how long he used performance-enhancing drugs or explained how he obtained them.

The failed tests were not the first of Miller’s career. In 2014, when he was participating in Glory kickboxing, he tested positive in a urine sample for the banned substance methylhexaneamine in connection with a decision loss to Mirko Cro Cop. The California State Athletic Commission suspended Miller for nine months and fined him $2,500.

Getting dumped from the fight with Joshua cost Miller a career-high purse of $4.875 million. He was also due to earn additional money from a percentage of the pay-per-view profits from the fight on Sky Sports Box Office in the United Kingdom. In addition, Miller lost out on at least another $3 million because his deal with U.S. broadcaster DAZN for the Joshua fight called for two $1.5 million comeback fights in the event of a loss to Joshua. The biggest purse of Miller’s career was a little over $500,000 for the win over Dinu.