Heavyweight contender Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller formally declined a world title elimination fight with Kubrat Pulev on Tuesday, opting instead to pursue a path with another organization.
On June 25, Epic Sports & Entertainment won an IBF purse bid to gain promotional rights for a fight meant to produce one of the mandatory challengers for unified world titleholder Anthony Joshua.
Epic Sports, which does not promote either fighter, bid a whopping $2,111,111 to beat the only other bidder, Team Sauerland, which bid $1,000,010. Team Sauerland promotes Pulev, but they are on the outs and Pulev's contract is soon to expire.
Miller would have earned a career-high purse of $527,777.75 (the 25 percent of the winning bid he was entitled to), but his co-promoters, Greg Cohen and Dmitry Salita, notified the IBF on Monday, which was the deadline to send the organization a signed contract, that Miller would not take part in the bout.
"On behalf of Jarrell Miller we are informing the IBF that we are turning down the fight offer to face Kubrat Pulev," the promoters wrote to the sanctioning organization. "We greatly appreciate the opportunity the IBF has afforded us and look forward to continuing our close working relationship."
Epic Sports promoter John Wirt was disappointed Miller's camp rejected a high-stakes fight between two bona fide contenders.
"Miller lives up to his moniker, 'Big Baby,'" Wirt told ESPN.
Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs), 37, had already signed for the fight and returned the contract to the IBF. He is aiming to earn a second world title shot after suffering a fifth-round knockout loss to then-unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. Pulev has won five fights in a row since and will be ordered to face another opponent by the IBF in the elimination bout. Dillian Whyte previously turned down the fight with Pulev after Epic Sports also won that purse bid in order to accept a better deal to face former titlist Joseph Parker on July 28.
Wirt tried to sell Pulev-Miller to HBO, which he said was not interested, so he planned to put the fight on Sept. 1 in Pulev's hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria, where is a superstar.
Cohen told ESPN that had the fight been set to take place in the United States, they may have accepted the bout.
"It didn't make sense to go over to Bulgaria. You know, overseas weird things happen. It wasn't meant to be," Cohen said. "So we are going the WBA route."
Cohen said Miller is already in position to be the mandatory challenger for the winner of the long overdue mandatory fight between Manuel Charr (31-4, 17 KOs), the WBA's secondary titlist, and Fres Oquendo (37-8, 24 KOs), who are scheduled to fight on Sept. 29 in Cologne, Germany.
"The winner of that fight must fight Jarrell Miller within 90 days," Cohen said. "We are considering a potential tune-up fight for sometime in September to early October for Jarrell. Dmitry and I are discussing some options, but the agenda now is to fight the winner of Charr and Oquendo for the WBA regular title."
Miller (21-0-1, 18 KOs), 29, of Brooklyn, New York, whose last two fights were televised by HBO, has defeated three consecutive former world title challengers: Gerald Washington by eighth-round knockout, Mariusz Wach by ninth-round stoppage and, on April 28, Johann Duhaupas by lopsided unanimous decision.