Conor Benn is adamant his fight with Chris Eubank Jr will go ahead on Saturday despite being prohibited by the British Boxing Board of Control after he failed a drug test.
Promoters Matchroom Boxing and Wasserman Boxing released a joint statement on Wednesday saying Saturday’s fight at the O2 in London would go ahead despite Benn returning an “adverse analytical finding” for traces of a fertility drug.
But a statement from the British Boxing Board of Control said: “On the evening of 4th October 2022, the Board of the British Boxing Board of Control Limited resolved that the contest between Chris Eubank Jnr and Conor Benn scheduled to take place on 8th October 2022 is prohibited as it is not in the interests of Boxing. That was communicated to the Boxers and Promoters involved on the morning of 5th October 2022.”
It remains unclear whether the fight will take place on Saturday but fight week media commitments began on Wednesday anyway, with both fighters taking part in a live workout at a venue in central London.
“I’ve not committed any violations, I’ve not been suspended, so as far as I’m concerned the fight is still going ahead,” Benn said at the workout.
“I’ve signed up to every voluntary anti-doping test under the sun, throughout my whole career I’m tested, I’ve always come back negative, I’ve never had any issues before. My team will find out why there has been an initial adverse finding in my test, but as far as I’m concerned the fight is going ahead.
“I’m a clean athlete and we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Benn also claimed he has spoken directly to Eubank Jr. “We both want the fight to go ahead, we’ve both taken medical and legal advice and we both want the fight to happen for the fans,” he insisted.
“He fully believes, he believes in me, and it’s not who I am, or what I’m about. I’m a pro athlete and he was understanding. We both want the fight to go ahead.”
Eubank Jr denies speaking to Benn
Eubank Jr denies the pair have spoken, however.
“There was no phone call,” he said at the workout. “We haven’t spoken. No phone call. We haven’t spoken since this has been announced, and it’s a shame you know.
“But my promoters, his promoters, the BBBofC they are going to sort this out.
“I am ready, I’m clean, I’ve been tested my entire career. I’ve been tested more than I’ve ever been tested for a fight in this training camp.”
Eubank Jr remains hopeful the fight will still go ahead.
“I’ve prepared, I’ve done my job, it’s now in the hands of the promoters, the governing bodies, to make this fight happen,” he said. “All I can do is be ready.
“Of course there are concerns, but listen, I can’t really say too much. I just can’t. I am ready, I am a clean fighter, I have cut the weight, I’m ready to go. This is all unfolding.”
A joint statement from Matchroom and Wasserman had earlier said: “We have been made aware that a random anti-doping test for Conor Benn conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association returned an adverse analytical finding for trace amounts of a fertility drug. The B sample has yet to be tested, meaning that no rule violation has been confirmed.
“Mr Benn has since passed a doping control test conducted by the UK Anti-Doping Agency, the anti-doping authority to which the British Board of Boxing Control has delegated its doping control testing for the bout. Mr Benn has passed all doping control tests conducted by UKAD.
“Both fighters have taken medical and legal advice, are aware of all relevant information, and wish to proceed with the bout this Saturday.”
Different drug testing agencies have been used for this contest. The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), which is licensing this fight, uses the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD), while the fighters and their teams also brought in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association to conduct that additional testing regime as well .
Hearn: Benn can’t be suspended by the BBBofC
Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn has pointed out that because the British Boxing Board of Control does not recognize VADA testing, they should not be able to suspend Benn.
Sky Sports News has contacted the British Boxing Board of Control.
Speaking on the Matchroom Youtube channel, Hearn said, “Both guys signed up to a multitude of testing for this fight. The UKAD testing which is what the BBBofC use, have all been cleared and negative, and there was an adverse finding on a VADA test previously.
“So there has not been an official doping violation, there is a process that has to be gone through,” Hearn continued.
“Benn is not suspended by the BBBofC, he can’t be ultimately because he’s passed all the tests from UKAD.
“But clearly the BBBofC will take a position on it, we’ll deal with the lawyers.”
The Eubank team, however, are still willing to go through with the fight, as is Benn.
“Both camps are prepared to progress with the fight, but ultimately the conversations have to be had with the lawyers and the teams and the BBBofC,” Hearn said.
“They’ve examined the adverse findings, they’ve had medical advice from experts regarding these traces, and are prepared to proceed with the bout.
“So everybody is comfortable with what they’ve seen. As of now, the Board are not comfortable, and we’ll respect that and see where that lands.”
If the main event is called off, the whole show at the O2 on Saturday is likely to be cancelled, Hearn noted.
But he added: “Currently there is no reason in terms of suspension of violations for the fight not to take place.”
Former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton criticized the decision to allow Benn to fight. He wrote on Twitter: “Boxing does itself no favours. There should be no gray areas. If you fail a test you’re banned and in my opinion you should be banned for life.”
The pair are due to face off almost 30 years since their fathers, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank Snr, met in the rematch of their iconic rivalry.
When will we see a B sample?
Matchroom, Benn’s promoters, have pointed out that his B sample has not been tested yet and so a rule violation has not been confirmed. A clear time has not been set for when the result of that B sample test will be obtained but it is not likely to come before Saturday, the date the Eubank-Benn fight is supposed to take place.
Is VADA officially recognised? If not, what’s the point of it?
It is the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association that boxers and their teams can sign up for to ensure a clean fight and a clean sport. It is widely recognized in the sport, championed by some high-profile fighters and used by key authorities in boxing, like world title sanctioning body the WBC. But boxing globally does not have one governing body and is broken up into different jurisdictions. The issue here is that it is not used by the British Boxing Board of Control and so not recognized by the body that is licensing this fight.
If both sides are indeed happy, as is being suggested, can a fight go ahead?
There are precedents in boxing for a fight to go ahead when one of the boxers has committed a doping violation. For instance the Oscar Valdez vs Robson Conceicao world title fight went ahead last year even after Valdez failed a VADA test. The difference in that instance though was the WBC, which sanctioned that world title, and the local athletic commission authorized it. The British Boxing Board of Control has prohibited this fight from taking place on Saturday.
What are the potential loopholes?
Clearly there are ongoing discussions between the teams’ legal representatives and the British Boxing Board of Control, so this is a developing situation. The promoters are exploring avenues to ensure the event can go ahead under the Board’s aegis.
But unlicensed boxing also does take place in the UK, for instance with YouTube personalities, and has been carried on a UK broadcast.
The authority of the board has also been challenged in the past when promoters have used other governing bodies. For instance the British Boxing Board of Control would not license David Haye’s controversial bout with Derek Chisora. The promoter of that contest used the Luxembourg Boxing Board, even though the event was held in London.
Is BBBofC decision final?
The statement was pretty unequivocal. The board said the bout “is prohibited as it is not in the interests of boxing” which suggests there is little appetite there for them to reverse course.
But Wasserman’s Kalle Sauerland, who represents Eubank, said: “They’re saying they won’t sanction the fight, at present.” That suggests the event promoters at least think that there might be some room there for the Board to change that decision or for legal action to be taken.