Promoter Eddie Hearn says Conor Benn will return to the ring next month, despite the fact that the embattled welterweight has another legal battle brewing on the horizon.
Benn, the 26-year-old native of England, has been under fire since he tested positive two separate times last year for the banned substance clomifene. The tests were administered by Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), one of the most respected third-party testing agencies in the sporting world.
The revelation of one of those tests led to the cancellation of Benn’s high-profile catchweight fight with Chris Eubank Jr. in October. Benn also voluntarily gave up his license with the British Boxing Board of Control, which precludes him from legally fighting in his own country.
Earlier this past spring, UK Anti-Doping charged Benn with a provisional suspension.
But that suspension was lifted recently after a hearing by the National Anti-Doping Panel, prompting Benn and his cadre of supporters to insist that he had been “cleared.” Benn has continually maintained his innocence throughout this period.
However, last week, both UKAD and the BBBofC, the body that oversees prizefighting in the United Kingdom, filed an appeal against the decision to lift Benn’s suspension. In a statement, the Board stressed its prerogative to push back against the panel’s verdict.
In a recent interview, Hearn, the head of Matchroom Boxing, which backs Benn, insisted that his troubled client would return to the ring in September, that is, before there has been any resolution with the Board’s appeal, which could take a few months. Benn has not fought since April of 2022 when he knocked out Chris van Heerden in two rounds.
“It looks like we’re gonna fight in September,” Hearn told Boxing News. “Yeah, he’s not suspended, he’s been cleared, subject to the appeal. So at the moment he’s cleared to fight. Obviously he’s already licensed. That fight could take place in the UK, subject to conversations with the Board. They may choose not to.
“But he wants to get out ASAP. The appeal’s gonna take, I don’t know, two or three months, so we’re not interested in waiting around. He’s been cleared. Obviously, they’ve chosen to appeal. We won that case. So we’ll see, but that was the conversation today.”
The Daily Mail reported that the NADP’s hearing “did not include an examination of the science” of how a banned substance appeared in Benn’s body twice in 2022.
Hearn suggested that Benn could file an application with the Board to see if he can fight in England or he could test his chances trying to land on a fight card in America. Major US commissions such as California, Las Vegas, and Texas, have stated that they would refuse to license Benn so long as his conflict with the BBBofC was ongoing.
“He’s not suspended, so he could ask for permission to box in the UK,” Hearn said of Benn. “I mean with everything going on, who knows. Legally, I don’t know the position on that. It’s an awkward one. But we would like to fight in the UK, but happy to fight in America as well.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.