Eddie Hearn believes that Conor Benn must face a hearing into his failed drugs test before he can return to the ring, even if it leads to Benn trying to break his contract with Matchroom.
The Matchroom supremo was speaking before it was announced by the British Board of Control that Benn had relinquished his license prior to a hearing last week into misconduct allegations against him, which Benn has since claimed was not related to the failed test that led to his fight with Chris Eubank Jr, schedule for October 8, being called off.
Benn has three fights left on his contract with Matchroom, but while Hearn said that Benn was not suspended after he failed the VADA test in September, he said he believes Benn should have a hearing, either with the BBBoC or UK Anti-Doping before returning, even though he believes he would have no problems being licensed by other commissions.
"I would only accept that if he has been through a hearing," Hearn said. "I could have put [Benn-Eubank] on November 5 in Abu Dhabi, but that would have looked terrible. He has to go through a process to be cleared to fight.
"Contractually, if he is clear to fight, I can't just come in and break the contract. It's a good point. If Matchroom said we weren't prepared to work with Conor Benn until he went through a hearing, I guess he could go and fight elsewhere.
"If he comes to us now and says 'I'm fine to fight in Abu Dhabi, I'm fine to fight in Florida, or Texas, or Germany, or Australia', all those jurisdictions would clear him like that.
"So, at that point, we have to decide if we stage the fight or if we are not prepared to stage the fight. I'm telling you now, that I am not prepared to stage the fight until he has gone through some kind of hearing."
The Benn-Eubank fight was finally called off two days before it was due to take place at the O2 Arena.
Benn had tested positive for clomifene, a female fertility drug that can be used to increase testosterone levels, in a sample taken by VADA in early September. That was reported to both boxers and the promoters on September 23, as well as the BBBoC.
But Hearn said that it had not been within his power to cancel the fight after Eubank said he wanted to proceed, as only the BBBoC or Eubank had the power in the contract to cancel it.
It was on October 5 that the failed test was revealed in an article in the Daily Mail, shortly before a statement was released by the BBBoC saying they had decided to prohibit the fight in the interests of boxing, a decision they said had been made at a meeting the previous evening.
Hearn said he had been informed of the Board's decision before the article appeared.
He said that he had never been willing to press ahead under the sanctioning of another federation and said that ultimately a decision not to press ahead with court action on an injunction against the BBBoC's decision because "it was a bad look".
Hearn says the delay in the BBBoC's decision to prohibit the bout proved very costly. He estimated that Matchroom lost over £1 million on the cancellation, including around £400,000 on hotels and events on fight week that, had they been cancelled, some money would have been salvaged.
"I was extremely pissed off with how the Board handled it," Hearn said. "Over a period of seven hours I was thinking what do we do in this situation, and these were the options presented to us - do we go for an injunction? I spoke to the lawyers and they said 'you win easy'. A lot of people wanted to go with another commission because he's not banned. Ultimately, it was decided we were not going to proceed with this bout.
"We would have liked a hearing before the Board's decision. Before the Board made their decision, Matchroom can't cancel the fight contractually. Chris Eubank Jr can because Conor Benn has failed a test, but he wanted to proceed and at that point we leave it in the hands of the Board.
"There was absolutely no pressure from DAZN to continue."
Hearn says he does not believe that Benn took the substance for performance-enhancing reasons, but says it is up to Benn to prove that and says he believes the public might not accept if he "got off".
"I believe he is innocent. But at the same time, you have to take responsibility, whether you are unlucky or not, that something has been found in your system," he said. "With what I know and believe, the purpose of the ban is more to suppress the public feeling and media around this situation.
"I don't think the public will be happy if he can't nail a specific contamination issue or whatever it is. The feeling will be 'he has got off it'. At the same time, I don't think he should face a lengthy ban. I don't believe he has cheated, I don't believe he has taken a performance-enhancing drug for the benefit of physical performance - that's how I feel. I don't feel he should have his career ultimately punished. That is based on the scientific evidence but also my belief in him as a character.
"He's a God-fearing man and he had it in him to say he had to be honest in this situation and find out what happened, rather than 'yeah, this happened, give me three months'."
In hindsight, Hearn says he hoped that the BBBoC would have handled the matter quicker.
"It would have been so much better for everybody that (when they were informed) they would have made the decision, none of this would have happened. We would have said 'we are going to have an emergency hearing and reschedule the fight'.
"The last thing anyone wanted was for it to be swept under the carpet. No one was ever comfortable on any side."
Despite all the controversy of the past fortnight, Hearn says he believes he has become immune to criticism he has faced and that it was not as tough a situation to deal with as when Jarrell Miller failed a test prior to his fight with Anthony Joshua in 2019.
"You become cold and emotionless in this business," Hearn said. "If this had happened to me five or six years ago, I probably wouldn't be sitting here now. Unfortunately, it is the worst business in the world, and it takes away all emotion.
"When I got the Jarrell Miller news, that was the worst I have had to deal with, and it wasn't even my fighter. I had sold out Madison Square Garden, Margaret (Goodman) called me from VADA and I was literally on my knees.
"The Dillian Whyte situation (ahead of his fight with Oscar Rivas) was horrendous. I was walking to do a press conference when I got a phone call from Robert Smith to say 'I think there is a problem with Dillian Whyte's drug test'.
"I have learnt that you are going to have f------ horrendous situations to go through. All the stick I have had from this, 4-5 years ago probably would have broken me. But you become immune."
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.