Boxing’s latest crisis lurched haphazardly and belatedly towards a modicum of good sense on Thursday afternoon when the promoter Eddie Hearn finally conceded that Conor Benn’s fight against Chris Eubank Jr will be postponed.
After trying to overturn the British Boxing Board of Control’s ruling that the bout in London on Saturday is “prohibited”, in the wake of Benn testing positive for clomifene, Hearn’s company Matchroom confirmed that the bout was off.
“After discussions with various parties, we have taken the decision to formally postpone the bout between Chris Eubank Jr and Conor Benn,” said Matchrrom and Wasserman Boxing in a joint statement.
“It is undeniable that the British Boxing Board of Control’s decision to withdraw their sanctioning was procedurally flawed and without due process. That remains a legal issue between the promoters and the Board which we intend to pursue.
“However, whilst there are legal routes to facilitate the fight taking place as planned, we do not believe that it is in the fighters’ interests for those to be pursued at such a late stage, or in the wider interests of the sport. As promoters, we take out obligations and duties very seriously, and a full investigation will now need to take place. We will be making no further comment at this time and news for ticket holder refunds will follow.”
Benn had failed a drug test carried out two weeks ago by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency but Hearn initially refused to accept defeat. He mounted a vigorous legal challenge to the board’s decision despite the fact that Benn, whom he promotes, was found to have traces of the fertility drug, which can significantly boost levels of testosterone, in his system. Clomifene is banned by Vada and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The British governing body had released a short statement on Wednesday afternoon in which they stressed that the bout could not proceed “as it is not in the interests of boxing”. Benn argued he was “a clean athlete” and he and Eubank Jr indicated that they were ready to fight on Saturday.
Hearn and Benn’s defence centred on the claim that his B sample has yet to be tested, that he had been clear in all Ukad tests and that the Board of Control has not suspended him.
At least there is some relief in the postponement but the real damage done to boxing’s already tattered reputation will become clearer in the days and weeks ahead.