Friends never usually message me about something good that has happened in boxing. I don’t mean friends within the industry, but your normal, grab-a-drink-with, will-invite-them-to-your-wedding, can-remember-them-in-nappies kind of friends. The ones that know you as the one that follows boxing without really knowing what you do.
You know, the ones that text you saying, “Have you seen that Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua are fighting – shall we go?!’’ or, “Why is Floyd Mayweather fighting a YouTuber?” and you have to bite your tongue before responding with justified cynicism, armed with truth bombs and bite-sized, rushed detail.
Well, today was another of those days. An excess of bemused messages flooded my phone after it was announced that Conor Benn had failed a drug test ahead of his now postponed fight with Chris Eubank Jr.
But this time, my riposte wasn’t as easily constructed. I mean, where do you even start with a fight like this? Unfortunately, in hindsight, the names “Eubank” and “Benn” are so deeply ingrained in British sport that casual fans were bounced off a massive springboard to access interest in this fight, but unbeknownst to them, it was a deep cesspit of shit they were about to dive into.
I wasn’t sold on this fight from day one — sure, name me a fight that isn’t a cash-grab to some degree, after all, it’s called prizefighting for a reason, but this forced reliance on nostalgia and crowbarred catchweight gave an unrealistic impression of a British super-fight.
“One of the biggest fights in British boxing history,” Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn happily peddled since the fight was made official, with DAZN pay-per-view attempting to cash-in on this hysteria. But now, following Riath Al-Samarrai’s breaking story with the MailOnline Sport that Conor Benn failed a Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency test for traces of fertility drug clomifene, casual eyes have been exposed to boxing’s dark side.
The hypocrisy has been frightening. Following the news that Benn had failed a VADA test — understood to have taken place at the start of September and revealed to his team on Sept. 23 — close to 30 hours passed where the boxing powers inside the O2 Arena attempted to give the fight a green light to continue.
Promoters Eddie Hearn and Kalle Sauerland clung onto Benn’s negative UKAD tests and declared that both men were still happy to fight, despite the British Boxing Board of Control withdrawing their sanctioning of the contest due to concerns with VADA’s findings.
What’s the point in signing up for a drugs test if you aren’t going to act upon the findings? A question that not only we are posing, but one that Eddie Hearn himself is quoted as saying a couple of years ago when the shoe was on the other foot.
And as for the B-sample that Matchroom and Wasserman referred to in their tone-deaf joint statement on Wednesday night? Well, they knew all along that there was no time for that to be tested before fight night, attempting to claim that this meant that no rules had been broken. As former world champion Carl Frampton put it so succinctly on Twitter, B-samples: “same piss, different container.”
The decision to pull this fight was an obvious one and opportunities to do so were vast before leaked news broke today that it had finally been postponed. Undercard fighters who have now lost their purses for Saturday night’s card were left in the dark with everyone else, until Eddie Hearn and Kalle Sauerland conducted a press conference — void of any questions — with their tails firmly between their legs.
Boxing’s history is littered with characters that have willingly danced with the devil within the shadows of the sport, but with a light shining brightly on this fight due to the protagonist’s own doing, the cracks and breaks were there for all to see.
As well as being synonymous with great fights, Benn’s and Eubank’s names are also stained in tragedy. Both fathers of the fighters involved in Saturday’s postponed fight inflicted life-changing injuries on opponents during their career, underlining the dangers that accompany our sport. But money and greed shouted loudest this week, as the health of Michael Watson and Gerald McClellan were forgotten.
If Conor Benn had seriously injured a weight-drained Chris Eubank Jr this weekend following a positive drugs test, would the sport have ever recovered? And if it wasn’t for a sensational piece of journalism, would we, or anyone outside Benn’s team ever have known? Thankfully we are not going to find out, but collectively, boxing needs to get a grip.
The sport was failed by a boxer, promoters, broadcasters, and authorities this week, and it shouldn’t be forgotten. Because you can be sure that those casual viewers looking in will certainly remember.