Saturday’s fight between Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr remained in limbo on Thursday morning, as lawyers thrashed out the legalities of whether the bout could go ahead.
The fight was thrown into doubt on Wednesday when it was revealed that Benn had failed a drugs test and then the British Boxing Board of Control prohibited the fight from going ahead, insisting it was not “in the interests of boxing”.
But joint promoters Matchroom and Wasserman told staff on Thursday morning that fight night remained on course as planned.
The press conference was still scheduled to go ahead at a Canary Wharf hotel in the afternoon although delayed by three hours, with Benn and Eubank Jr coming face to face for the first time since news of the adverse analytical finding emerged.
The promoters have 48 hours to thrash out their legal arguments, with a hearing taking place this afternoon. Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn said his preferred course of action was for the fight to take place under the auspices of the BBBofC.
The board were not available for a response throughout Wednesday or again on Thursday beyond their official statement, but it would require a dramatic U-turn on their part or else an injunction against the prohibition being filed by the promoters, which Hearn admitted was a potential course of action.
Yesterday, the board effectively blocked the fight, saying: “The contest between Chris Eubank Jr and Conor Benn is prohibited as it is not in the interests of boxing. That was communicated to the boxers and promoters.”
Another potential avenue is to get a different governing body to sanction the fight but Hearn is adamant he won’t take that approach. He wrote on social media: “Let’s see what today brings but to make one thing clear I will not be promoting this fight with a foreign commision or alternative governing body on Saturday night.”
The joint official line from the promoters is that the fight will go ahead and that Benn has not been guilty of any doping violation, despite producing an adverse analytical finding for trace amounts of the substance clomifene, a fertility drug for women.
The sample was tested by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency, which both fighters had signed up to, with the outcome of it understood to have been passed on to the BBBofC as long ago as September 23. There were also reports the positive test may date back to August. But VADA are not the officially sanctioned anti-doping body for the fight nor for the BBBofC, which is instead the UK Anti-Doping Agency.
Both Benn and his Matchroom promoters have stressed he has not failed any UKAD tests at any stage, either in the build-up to the fight or else during the rest of his career. The B sample of his VADA test has not yet been tested.
Speaking yesterday, Benn said: “I’ve not committed any violations, I’ve not been suspended so, as far as I’m concerned, the fight’s still going ahead. I’ve spoken to Chris and we both want it to go ahead. I’ve never had any issues before. Even in the lead-up to this fight my tests have come back negative, so my team will find out why there’s been an initial adverse finding in my test. I’m a clean athlete.”
His stance was backed by Hearn, who said: “There has been no doping violation, there has been no suspension. There are many different ways for us to proceed.”