Eddie Hearn has taken issue with the head of the British Boxing Board of Control continuing to emphasize that Conor Benn hasn’t been cleared to box Saturday night in Orlando, Florida.
From Hearn’s perspective, the Florida Athletic Commission had no reason to deny the unbeaten Benn a license to compete on this card promoted by Hearn’s company, Matchroom Boxing, at Caribe Royale Orlando. If Benn isn’t suspended, Hearn argued, and the British Boxing Board of Control’s appeal of UK Anti-Doping’s decision late in July to lift Benn’s suspension hasn’t even been scheduled, the British welterweight shouldn’t be prevented from making a living.
“Robert Smith says he believes Conor Benn hasn’t cleared his name,” Hearn told IFL TV for a video posted to its YouTube channel. “What they should’ve asked him is, is Conor Benn cleared to box, because the answer is yes. And that’s the reason that he’s fighting this weekend. You know, [Smith] said that he’s spoken to the commissions. If he wasn’t cleared to box, Robert Smith would’ve said to the commissions, ‘No, he’s not cleared to box. He’s suspended.’ We know he’s not [suspended] because he won his case against the [BBBocC] and against UKAD.”
Smith, the BBBofC’s general secretary, made the aforementioned comments to talksport.com’s Michael Benson in an article posted to that website Thursday.
Mike Mazzulli, president of the Association of Boxing Commissions in the United States, informed BoxingScene.com’s Sean Nam that Smith didn’t firmly object to Benn’s potential licensure and offered little insight into the situation in a letter Smith sent to the FAC (https://www.boxingscene.com/abc-head-justifies-floridas-decision-allow-return-conor-benn-questions-transparency-bbbofc--177909). Therefore, Mazzulli contended, there was no justification for denying Benn (21-0, 14 KOs) a license to fight Mexico’s Rodolfo Orozco (32-3-3, 24 KOs) in a 10-round, 154-pound bout on the Richardson Hitchins-Jose Zepeda undercard (DAZN; 8 p.m. EDT).
Benn was suspended by the ABC because he tested positive for clomifene, a performance-enhancer often used to boost testosterone levels, last year in two tests administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Failing those two tests caused the cancellation of Benn’s high-profile grudge match against Chris Eubank Jr., which was scheduled for last October 8 at O2 Arena in London.
The 26-year-old Benn’s ABC suspension was lifted after he tested negative for PEDs in a recent test overseen by VADA. Benn, who has maintained his innocence throughout this ordeal, will fight for the first time Saturday night since he stopped South Africa’s Chris van Heerden in the second round of their April 2022 bout at AO Arena in Manchester, England.
“Conor Benn has two choices, all right?,” Hearn said. “Having won the case in July and having won the case, and having his suspension lifted and having been cleared, he has the choice to fight or to wait for a potential appeal, which we know, through all the slow playing previously, could be kicked into next year. He hasn’t boxed for 18 months. What he’s spent in terms of scientific reports, in terms of legal costs, you know, the man needs to go back to work.”
If the heavily favored Benn beats Orozco, Hearn intends to try to reschedule the Benn-Eubank bout for some point in December. Benn, a son of British legend Nigel Benn, still isn’t licensed in England, where Benn-Eubank would do the biggest business, but Hearn hopes that changes if Benn withstands the impending appeal.
Regardless, Hearn, despite backlash from media outlets and fans, believes Benn has done everything required of him to resume his career wherever in the world he wants to box.
“Conor has produced this scientific evidence in the past,” Hearn said. “It’s not like he’s never, he just kept it under his bed or something. But when that’s asked to be produced, he has produced it every time. If you go and read Matt Lawton’s piece in the The Times, you’ll see a very, very in-depth article about one of the reasons why we believe Conor Benn is innocent.
“So, it’s not like, ‘Oh, we’re not telling you.’ But when you go into a trial, like he did with UKAD, he’s done everything he was asked to do and he won. So, like, what Robert Smith, what they should’ve [asked] in that interview is, ‘Is he cleared to box?’ And under their rules, if you’re not suspended, if you’re not fined … you are cleared to box.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.