Boxing continues fight for credibility but money still talks loudest

Boxing continues fight for credibility but money still talks loudest

Boxing has far from covered itself in glory this week.

It began with news that the blockbuster fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury was off.

Depending which side of the argument you choose to believe, Fury was simply playing games or Joshua was fearful of walking and talking his way into a third straight loss. The cynics, or even realists, never really believed it was a fight finding its way to fruition, despite initial terms being agreed.

Then, yesterday, came the far more serious matter of the legalities of Conor Benn’s fight against Chris Eubank Jr on Saturday night going ahead. Money always talks in sport, and boxing is no different.

What it effectively comes down to is the fact that there is £10million on the line. Long before the doping fallout, the clamour for the fight was huge, the O2 a sell-out and promoter massively oversubscribed for media requests to cover the fight.

It is now a fight that has turned into a farce and all sensibilities point to the fact that it should not and cannot go ahead, but when have sensibilities ever got in the way of the boxing juggernaut?

 (Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)
(Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)

Benn will have his chance in due course to argue how a banned substance, clomifene, more typically an infertility drug for woman but which can also help boost testosterone levels, managed to find its way into his system.

There may well be an honest explanation and Benn could, in due course, be exonerated of any wrongdoing. But in other sports, a doping violation — even if only after an adverse analytical finding from the A sample, as in this case — would lead to a provisional suspension of the athlete in question.

Not so in this case. In fact, quite the opposite. Joint promoters Matchroom and Wasserman have both put out the party line that there has been no doping violation. Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn also stressed there was no suspension and, as a result, the fight was fine to go ahead as it stood and with the blessing of both Eubank Jr and Benn.

That is the same Hearn who backed the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency — the agency responsible for taking Benn’s positive sample — when that same agency discovered that Jarred Miller had tested positive for the banned substance GW501516 ahead of his fight against Anthony Joshua.

At the time, Hearn spoke eloquently of the dangers of doping in boxing. He said: “This isn’t tennis. This is not the 100metre sprint. This is a sport where the aim is to go in and knock your opponent out.

“So, if you’re taking something that’s going to increase your endurance or increase your strength or give you an edge physically in a sport like this, I would never want to put my fighter in a position like that.”

And therein lies the hypocrisy of a sport that wants to be taken more seriously and yet keeps on finding ways to tie itself up in knots and leave it open to accusations of being a shambles.

No one has covered themselves in glory here, although some credit has to go to the British Boxing Board of Control for prohibiting sanctioning the fight because it was “not in the interests of the sport”.

Yet it is understood they had the news of Benn’s positive test as long ago as September 23. Why, then, did they have to wait until fight week to take this stance? And had the adverse analytical finding not been uncovered by the media, would anything have happened? In all likelihood, the fight would simply have gone ahead as planned, those paying for tickets at the O2 or else paying a hefty price to watch on TV simply none the wiser.

Can this fight in all good conscience go ahead? These are two fighters putting their lives on the line, as argued in impassioned fashion by one of their fathers, Chris Eubank, in the long lead up to it.

Perhaps Eubank Sr’s arguments came from having knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes in his pleading arguments.

His son says he is happy for the fight to go ahead, unsurprising given the work he has put in and the paydayheading his way. But it is not a decision that should rest in his hands, instead with the authorities who should be doing their utmost to protect their fighters at all costs in such a dangerous sport, and do the right thing. Instead, they are letting him down.