Chris Eubank Jr. and Conor Benn could finally be entering the ring together, if Eddie Hearn’s feeling on the matter is any indication.
Hearn, the head of Matchroom Boxing, indicated in a recent interview that he believes that the accursed matchup is “very close” to becoming a reality—again.
Eubank, a career middleweight, and Benn, a welterweight, were scheduled to face each other last October in a high-profile 157-pound catchweight bout at The O2 Arena in London, an event that drew widespread attention because the fighters’ fathers—Eubank Sr. and Nigel Benn—produced Britain’s best known boxing rivalry in the 1990s.
But a few days out from the fight, Benn was revealed to have tested positive for the banned performance-enhancing drug clomifene, leading to the cancellation of the fight. A few weeks later Benn was revealed to have tested positive for the same substance, in a separate test, earlier in the year. Eubank would go on to fight Liam Smith in a middleweight bout in January, but he suffered a colossal upset, getting stopped in the fourth round.
Benn is currently barred from fighting in his homeland as he remains unlicensed with the British Boxing Board of Control. He is also under provisional suspension by United Kingdom Anti Doping, which charged the fighter with a doping violation last month.
“I think we’re very close to making that fight,” Hearn told Boxing Social. “I’d be lying to you if I told you we’re not really motivated to make that fight because we’re really motivated to make that fight. It’s a huge fight.
“It was the fastest selling event, boxing event, at The O2. It was the highest grossing gate at The O2 of all time. And it’s massive. Eubank wants the fight. Conor Benn wants the fight.”
There was talk that Eubank and Benn were going to fight June 3 in Abu Dhabi, despite the fact that Eubank was already engaged in a rematch with Smith. In the end, Eubank decided to move forward with the Smith rematch. However, the fight was postponed after Smith suffered an injury; it was postponed again recently after it became clear that Smith was still experiencing pain from the injury. That development has left the Eubank-Smith rematch in limbo, apparently paving the way for Eubank to pick up negotiations with Benn.
Hearn admitted that he is not leading negotiations for Eubank-Benn. Instead, Frank Smith, the CEO of Matchroom, Hearn said, is the one in charge.
“I wouldn’t say I’m not involved in that fight but Frank Smith is leading the way on that one,” Hearn said. “I will do whatever deal that needs to be done behind the scenes. I will pop up for any meetings to get anything over the line but I believe that fight will happen.”
As for when and where the fight will take place, Hearn was unable to offer a concrete answer. Hearn did seem to suggest that he is leaning towards Abu Dhabi. Hearn co-promoted a light heavyweight title fight in Abu Dhabi last year involving his charge, the WBA champion Dmitry Bivol, and Gilberto Ramirez, who is backed by Golden Boy.
Hearn was exploring the possibility of Benn fighting on the undercard of a June 17 card in New Orleans headlined by Regis Prograis but eventually decided not to. The opportunities for Benn to fight in the United States are admittedly thin: many of the prominent commissions—including California, Nevada, and Texas—are on record saying they will not license Benn to fight in their respective states so long as his investigations with UKAD/BBBoC are pending.
“When? That’s the key,” Hearn said. “But it’s the fight to make. It could be August, it could be September, it could be in December. It doesn’t have to be in Abu Dhabi.
“There’s a lot going on with UKAD right now. Let those teams go through the process. I would love for this fight to happen in the UK. But Abu Dhabi also know that this is a massive fight and you’re going to sell out the Etihad [Arena]. You’re going to have a huge number of British fight fans flying over for that fight.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.