British boxing grudge match called off after drug-test drama
Saturday’s hugely-anticipated showdown between British boxing rivals Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr has been postponed a day after it was revealed that Benn had tested positive for a banned substance in a pre-fight screening.
The fight was due to take place almost 30 years after the fighters’ fathers, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank, fought for a second time in a longstanding rivalry which defined British boxing in the 1990s.
Benn, 26, was flagged for what his promoters Matchroom Boxing described as an “adverse analytical finding for trace amounts of a fertility drug” called clomifene, which is known to increase testosterone levels in men and is on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances both in and out of competition.
The test was administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), which adheres to the WADA code.
VADA was brought in at the request of both Benn and Eubank Jr. to provide additional testing alongside that of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), which is the predominant drug-testing body within British boxing.
It was reported that Benn passed a drug test administered by UKAD.
The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), the sanctioning body governing the fight, subsequently withdrew its support after Benn’s positive test and announced in a statement that the contest was “prohibited and not in the interests of boxing.”
However, Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn stated on Wednesday that he was investigating other methods to save the bout and added that Benn’s B sample had not yet been tested, and that his fighter was currently under no type of suspension which would rule him out of the fight.
It was later claimed on Wednesday that both fighters had discussed the issue and were set on pushing forward with the bout.
But that decision was taken out of their hands on Thursday when it was officially confirmed that the fight was off.
“After discussions with various parties, we have taken the decision to formally postpone the bout between Chris Eubank Jr. and Conor Benn,” Matchroom Boxing said in a statement published to social media.
“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.”
The statement added: “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 our obligations and duties very seriously, and a full investigation will now need to take place.”
Hearn is understood to have argued that because the BBBofC doesn’t recognize VADA testing that the fight should have gone ahead as planned, and that both Matchroom Boxing and broadcasters DAZN, who were to screen the fight, are utterly convinced of Benn’s innocence.
Referencing the scandal, Jane Rumble, UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive, said: “UKAD notes the reporting of a failed VADA test by the boxer Conor Benn with concern.
“UKAD acts on all reports of doping and always encourages anyone with information on suspected doping activity to come forward and share that with us.”