Jarrell Miller has a confirmed opponent for his first fight in the U.S. in more than three years.
The unbeaten heavyweight will face Tijuana’s Derek Cardenas, who was medically cleared by the Tennessee Athletic Commission on Thursday and approved for a boxing license. The development was the last hurdle to clear for Miller (24-0-1, 20KOs) appearing as part of a July 23 show in the main ballroom of the Embassy Suites hotel in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Cardenas (8-9, 7KOs) was selected as the opponent of choice but couldn’t be formally announced until he received clearance by an orthopedist. The matter was required to lift an existing suspension in place by the Arizona Boxing & MMA Commission following Cardenas’ fourth-round knockout loss to Dante Stone last November.
The 24-year-old club fighter—nicknamed El Vikingo—has suffered knockout defeats in each of his last three fight starts. The bout with Miller is his third straight in the U.S. after having fought exclusively in Tijuana, including six appearances at the famed and Tim Boxeo-approved Big Punch Arena.
The fight will mark the first time that Brooklyn’s Miller will appear in any state under the jurisdiction of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) since his backdated two-year suspension ended in mid-June. The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NAC) benched the heavyweight after testing positive for a banned substance ahead of a scheduled July 2020 fight in Las Vegas.
Miller returns just one month—to the day—following a June 23 ten-round points win over Argentina’s Ariel Bracamonte on the road in Buenos Aires. The fight was his first anywhere in the world since November 2018, when he scored a fourth-round knockout of Bogdan Dinu as part of a DAZN show in Mulvane, Kansas.
His next fight was to come in a challenge of then-unbeaten WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (24-2, 22KOs) in June 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, mere minutes from his Brooklyn hometown. The fight fell through after Miller tested positive for multiple banned substances. The development resulted in his losing out on a lucrative fight package worth roughly $6.5 million that included comeback bouts if he lost, with even more to gain had he beaten Joshua and secured a rematch. However, he avoided an official suspension due to not being licensed in the state of New York at the time of the positive drug test.
Miller still sat out all of 2019, and well into 2020 due to the pandemic. Once the sport resumed, Miller—through co-promoters Greg Cohen and Dmitry Salita—entered a pact with Top Rank which was to begin with a July 9, 2020 fight with Jerry Forrest on ESPN from the MGM Grand Garden Conference Center in Las Vegas. The Nevada commission approved the fight on the condition that Miller was to be treated and tested like a licensed fighter. In producing a positive drug test for GW501516—also known as cardarine and endurobol—Miller was subject to a suspension.
The Nevada commission placed him on temporary suspension for roughly five months before handing down the final ruling in December 2020 for a backdated two-year ban from the time of the positive drug test in June 2020.
Miller appeared before the Nevada commission earlier this year, not to ask for leniency but to provide an update that he was once again enrolled in VADA random testing after having to temporarily drop out due to financial hardship. The commission took note of the strides made by the Brooklynite and—while standing firm on the end date for his suspension—agreeing to make him conditionally eligible to apply for a license and secure a fight immediately upon completion of his two-year ban.
Miller first took the fight in Argentina before deciding to return stateside, with the plan of fighting every month for the rest of the year. His bout will serve as part of an eight-fight show at the intimate venue, which has drawn standing room only crowds for its previous two shows. The event lost one bout, when an opponent fell through for local gate attraction Luis Galarza (27-4, 18KOs).
The rest of the card remains intact, including the main event which features Rydell Mayes (12-1, 11KOs) attempting to avenge his lone defeat in a scheduled eight-round rematch with Knoxville’s Jaden Booth (3-4, 3KOs). The locally based Mayes suffered a stunning third-round knockout at nearby NOTES Lounge, which has since closed its doors to the public. Mayes has won four straight, while Booth lost his past two bouts following the upset.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox