The fate of Saturday’s fight between Chris Eubank Jr and Conor Benn now seems to be in the hands of lawyers after the British Boxing Board of Control had seemingly pulled the plug on the fight in the wake of a positive drugs test by Benn.
Promoters Matchroom and Wasserman as well as both boxers are still keen to press ahead with the fight, despite the BBBoC declaring it was not in the best interests of the sport.
And while Eddie Hearn, the head of Matchroom, said that lawyers were dealing with the matter and even claimed he had been advised that he would likely be able to get an injunction against the BBBoC in order for the fight to go ahead.
What seems highly unlikely, though, would be that another sanctioning group would step in the stage the fight, as happened in 2012 when the Luxembourg federation stepped in for the David Haye-Derek Chisora fight after Chisora’s licence had been withdrawn by the BBBoC in the wake of their brawl at a press conference after Chisora’s loss to Vitali Klitschko.
“It’s a difficult situation for the Board because the Board do not acknowledge Vada testing,” Hearn said. “They only acknowledge UKAD for which Conor has had multiple tests for this fight, all of which have been negative. There’s a lot to digest and go through and right now the legal teams are speaking to the Board. They have to be comfortable as well to sanction the fight. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
Benn had produced a positive test for clomiphene, a substance on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned list, which is normally used to treat infertility in women, a story that was first broken in the Daily Mail.
The BBBoC released a statement saying it had decided to “prohibit” the fight, despite the test having been carried out by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), not UK-Anti Doping, which carries out doping control on its behalf.
The failed test is understood to have been from a sample taken in August. Benn is understood to have passed a UKAD test subsequently.
The BBBoC held a meeting on Tuesday evening at which its action was decided.
The statement read: “On the evening of 4th October 2022, the Board of the British Boxing Board of Control Limited resolved that the contest between Chris Eubank Jr. 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.”
Kalle Sauerland, Eubank’s promoter, said that they had received advice that the substance was not performance enhancing.
“The medical advice was that traces were found of a female fertility drug,” Sauerland said. “This drug can raise testosterone levels. The levels that were shown to us and we showed to the medical people were non performance-enhancing. We then looked at the other test results and saw they were all negative. It comes down to Chris at that point and I said: ‘are we in or are we out?’ Chris was very straight with me and said ‘we’d like the fight to go ahead’.
“We have got two boxers who are not suspended and I know our lawyers are looking to find a solution with the British Boxing Board.
“Conor hasn’t failed by UKAD controls so they can’t suspend him on that basis. What is the decision getting at? It is saying ‘in the interests of boxing’ but it doesn’t reference on what basis that is.
“There are precedents and we have made a decision and it is now my job as Chris Eubank’s promoter and the co-promoter of the event is to ensure we have an event. We look at every measure possible now from High Court injunctions… we are open to a discussion with the Board but if that doesn’t happen, other measures as well. It opens a can of worms. I wish it wasn’t the case. We can’t say anything was withheld from us, it was all disclosed. The most important thing was the medical side.
“We have got a legal team, we have got a King’s Counsel involved. We are looking forward to a great fight on Saturday night, I do believe it will go ahead.”
Promoters Matchroom and Wasserman had earlier issued a joint statement saying that the fight, due to be at the O2 Arena, London, would go ahead.
“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 statement said. “The B sample has yet to be tested, meaning that no rule violation has been confirmed. Indeed, Mr Benn has not been charged with any rule violation, he is not suspended, and he remains free to fight.
“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.”
In January, Benn was removed from the WBC rankings for failing to join the Clean Boxing Program they run with Vada, although he was returned to the rankings after signing up.
Saturday’s fight has gained huge interest in the UK, coming 30 years after the pair’s fathers – Nigel and Chris Sr – met in the second of their world title fights.
The fight was made at 157 pounds, with middleweight Eubank coming down three pounds from his normal fighting weight and Benn putting on 10 pounds. Last Thursday, when Benn spoke to the media in his Essex gym, he said he was five pounds over the 157-pound fight limit.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.