During the mid-1990s, it was a great time to be a boxing fan in Washington, DC. The nation’s capitol boasted four world champions (WBA middleweight champ William Joppy, WBC middleweight champ Keith Holmes, IBF flyweight titleholder Mark Johnson and WBA junior welterweight titlist Sharmba Mitchell) at the same time, as well as a slew of contenders and prospects that alternately sparred with the champions and tried to put themselves in position to be champions themselves.
Some of those contenders fell short of the championship mark and then fell by the wayside. Others stepped away from the sport entirely. And then there are those boxers who can be placed in both of those categories and have decided that now is the time to make another run.
Such is the case with DC junior middleweight Purcell “Hard Rock” Miller, who makes his return after a five-year absence.
In the mid-90s, Miller was considered one of the shining prospects in the DC area. Miller started his pro career in 1994 as a welterweight and quickly became a fan favorite, not only for his abilities in the ring, but also because of his ring entrances. The entrances combined Miller’s love of boxing with his love of music. In fact, DJs that work boxing cards could take time off during Miller’s entrances, because his ring walk came complete with a brass band that would accompany him to the ring.
Once Miller was in the ring, he was all business, using impressive power and hand speed. Victories came to Miller quickly and impressively. In his first 16 bouts, Miller was 16-0 with 15 KOs.
Miller’s first real test came in October of 1997 when he faced perennial welterweight title contender Raul Frank for the vacant USBA welterweight title. Miller lost a close 12-round decision and suffered his first defeat.
Two wins later, Miller, fighting as a junior middleweight, lost a 12-round unanimous decision to future world junior middleweight champion Carl Daniels for the USBA crown in July of 1998.
Miller’s career stopped after a majority decision loss to Robert Frazier in April 2000. Miller had a record of 21-3 with 17 KOs at the time of his hiatus.
Miller says a combination of personal feelings and legal issues kept him away from the sport.
“I didn’t retire or anything,” Miller said. “I had a contract issue to resolve. While that was going on, I fell into the streets and came across a couple of bad circumstances.”
Miller did not elaborate on those circumstances, except to say that the circumstances landed him in what he referred to as “the ugly place” for three years.
Once the problems were resolved, Miller decided to refocus on the sport he loved.
“Actually, boxing never left me,” insisted Miller. “It was a matter of time before I came back. I just had to get myself back together mentally, because boxing is more a mind game than a physical game. I had to decide that I was putting all my eggs in one basket.”
When asked when he decided he could continue boxing and do it well, the 32-year-old Miller said it was something he had to try again firsthand.
“I had to get back in the gym and train and do a lot of sparring and boxing. After a month and a half of me boxing, I knew I could do it.”
Miller said he expects to eventually be a major player in the 154-pound weight class.
“There’s no question about that,” he concluded. I wouldn’t be in this any other way.”
Miller’s opponent for the Ballroom show on November 10 is still to be determined.