Promoter Eddie Hearn wishes he could take back the way he approached the press in the early moments after knowledge of Conor Benn’s failed drug test went public.
Last October, Benn, the British welterweight contender, was revealed to have tested positive for the banned substance clomifene, three days out from his scheduled 157-pound catchweight bout against Chris Eubank Jr. Subsequently, the British Boxing Board of Control, the regulatory body for prizefighting in the United Kingdom, forbade the fight from taking place, sending its organizers into a tailspin. Eventually, after much brouhaha, Hearn made the decision to scrap the entire card.
Clomifene is a fertility drug and is believed to increase testosterone levels when used by men.
The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, was responsible for publishing the findings of Benn’s positive test, but the test result, which was produced through the third party testing organization Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, was already known to the promoters, the fighters, and the BBBofC for nearly two weeks.
Hearn has accused the BBBofC of leaking Benn’s positive test to the Daily Mail. Since then Benn has relinquished his license with the Board and has largely stayed out of the public eye, aside from the occasional post proclaiming his innocence. Benn is currently awaiting a verdict from the World Boxing Council, which dropped him from their welterweight rankings.
The circumstances surrounding Eubank-Benn were arguably one of the lowest moments of pro boxing in 2022.
In a recent interview, Hearn said he regretted informing the press about Benn’s situation so quickly in the initial aftermath of the leak. The bombshell Daily Mail report landed on a Wednesday, on a day that the fighters on the Eubank-Benn card were engaged in a public workout in London. The workout went ahead as planned, anyway, and Hearn, as well as Benn, offered their preliminary remarks on the situation.
“I think probably the moment where, during that situation—the only time we were at fault in that situation was the moment we were told that the Board wouldn’t sanction that fight,” Hearn told iFL TV. “It was the few hours after when our heads went a little bit to think, ‘we’ve been f---ed here.’ You’ve (the BBBofC) had this (information of Benn’s positive drug test) for nearly a month and now you want to make this decision, you want to leak something to the press and it was ego. You know, it was a mistake to even address the media at the workout and say, ‘hang on, we want to speak to our lawyers, we want to speak to the Board.’
“But it was just, yeah, it was handled so badly by situations out of our control. People will say [differently], but it was. We are guided by the governing body and we waited on that decision and when it came I probably regretted addressing the media straightaway, you know, when we went to the workout.”
“But you’re thinking on your feet,” Hearn continued. “You got to understand you’ve had this situation, you’re waiting on a decision from the British Boxing Board of Control and you get the decision literally as you’re driving to the workout and you have a decision to make at that moment. The undercard are working out. Conor Benn and Chris Eubank are on their way to the workout. What — do you pull the workout? No, you proceed with the workout. We’re going to deal with this. We’re going to speak to our lawyers, we’re going to speak to our teams, and probably those few hours, I would say, were probably a mistake.”
Hearn initially made it sound as if the fight could still go on, subject to some legal arrangement. Hearn tried to argue on a technical basis: that because VADA was not an official partner of the BBBoC, like UKAD, whose test Benn passed, Benn could not be suspended, and hence, could still go on to fight Eubank. Moreover, Hearn stressed that Eubank and his promoter, Kalle Sauerland, were comfortable moving forward with the fight, saying that their concerns were appeased by medical experts.
But Hearn’s comments would eventually come under further scrutiny a few weeks later, when it was revealed that Benn had tested positive for the same substance in a separate test earlier in the year, during the summer. That revelation suggested that Hearn and Benn had deliberately misled the public. Eubank himself has said he was taken aback by that new fact, as Benn had withheld that information from him when they initially spoke over the phone.
In the iFL interview, Hearn said that he and Sauerland quickly came to a decision, “a couple of hours” after the Daily Mail leak, to cancel the card, realizing that that was the proper thing to do. But that claim contradicts reporting at the time from outlets such as ESPN and The Independent that stated that Hearn and Co. were seriously looking to either pursue a legal injunction against the Board or obtain the services of an outside commission, such as the Luxembourg Boxing Federation and the British & Irish Boxing Authority (BIBA).
“On reflection, after a couple of hours, when we sat down, and we went back to Wasserman’s office and we talked it through with Kalle and we looked at the various options that we had, we said, ‘No, we have to abide by the governing body and we will not be doing this fight,’” Hearn said. “Probably those hours before were a mistake.”