Eddie Hearn and Kalle Sauerland were in no mood to give up on a Chris Eubank Jr v Conor Benn fight taking place at some point as they reluctantly pulled the plug on the fight happening this weekend.
Nearly 30 hours after the Daily Mail revealed that Benn had failed a doping test for clomiphene, a female fertility drug, the inevitable decision was reached and this weekend’s fight was postponed. There was an emphasis on saying it was postponed rather than cancelled.
Hearn and Sauerland briefly spoke to the press but did not take any questions. Hearn pointed out that Benn was not suspended. The other notable thing from their statements was that immediate refunds were being offered, a hint that when the fight does take place, it will not be at the O2 Arena in London.
There are certainly other options and for the moment, Benn is not suspended, as he is yet to face a disciplinary hearing. With legal action against the British Board of Control – whose decision to prohibit the fight taking place ultimately stopped it – ongoing, no hearing is likely in the immediate future. That could create a window for the fight to take place overseas in a jurisdiction beyond the Board’s reach.
This has been a murky two days for British boxing, not least because Vada – whose test Benn failed -apparently informed all involved that Benn had a positive test on September 23, the test having taken place in early September. Had the Daily Mail not published its exclusive, it must be questioned whether the fight would still be going ahead.
Hearn said that they ultimately did not go to court to try for an injunction to force the BBBoC to go ahead. Suggestions that they would just get another authority to oversee the fight, as happened with David Haye and Derek Chisora in 2012, always seemed fanciful not least because of the short time involved to make arrangements.
“It’s been a very difficult 24 hours, 48 hours,” Hearn said. “We were looking forward to an event that has really captured the imagination of the British public and a fight that had so much history.
“But obviously we wanted to come here today and formally announce that Chris Eubank Jr against Conor Benn has been officially postponed. I want to make it clear that Conor Benn is not suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control and we do feel that he hasn't been given due process like many others in this situation before him.
“I also want to clear up so many different reports from journalists and outlets that we’ve seen today about us being in the high court this afternoon, us considering other commissions. This is just not true.
“We took our time with Wasserman Boxing and we made a decision that we felt was in the best interests of the parties involved. This is a sport that is very, very dear to us and a sport that we’ve been around our entire life and while we were desperate for this fight to take place for the fans and for the undercard fighters, we also made a decision that we felt we had to at this time, especially considering the interests of the sport and the British public as well. I hope you feel that the correct action has been taken.”
Sauerland came to the press conference after speaking to Eubank, who had been keen for the fight to proceed despite Benn’s failed test.
“He’s hugely, hugely disappointed,” Sauerland said. “He was ready. He was on weight and he was very much looking forward to this weekend. Feelings also go out to each and every single one of the undercard fighters. Remember, it’s not just an event, it’s a camp for each and every single one of them that they’ve gone through. This matter was taken out of our hands. The handling of it, we feel was totally inappropriate given the rules and we now look at the plans to reschedule it.”
Hearn then concluded: “Tickets will be available for customers to refund immediately from the O2 Arena at point of purchase and we will be back in touch with the media in the public soon.”
The most obvious location for an overseas fight would be Abu Dhabi, where Matchroom have just agreed a long-term partnership to begin with the Dmitry Bivol-Gilberto Ramirez fight next month. Abu Dhabi would come with a sizeable site fee to make up for lost ticket sales, while still being at a good time for PPV in the UK. A fight in Europe, which would be easier for UK fans to attend, would also be straightforward.
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.