Conor Benn Vs Chris Eubank Jr And The Fights That Almost Didn't Happen

As Benn sweats over the status of Saturday's fight, The Sportsman looks back at other fights that nearly didn't happen
14:00, 06 Oct 2022

Conor Benn’s 02 Arena scrap with Chris Eubank Jr hangs in the balance at press time. The catchweight fight is at risk due to banned substance clomifene being found in Benn’s A-sample during drug testing. 

Boxing is a notoriously chaotic and ungovernable sport and this is far from the first time a big fight has been at risk of cancellation. In fact, by boxing’s lawless standards it is not even close to being the latest stage at which a fight has risked postponement. Here are five bouts from the archives that almost didn’t happen due to everything from a spongy ring to a misplaced door key.


Wladimir Klitschko vs Tyson Fury, 28/11/15

Nowadays we know ‘The Gypsy King’ dances to the beat of his own drum. But when Fury put his world title shot against Klitschko at risk in 2015, it caught everyone off-guard. Firstly, the Manchester boxer refused to wear the gloves ‘Dr Steelhammer’ had selected for their collision. 

Then Fury declined to participate due to the spongy nature of the ring canvas, eventually getting his way when layers of padding were removed. These marginal gains paid off, with Fury winning a unanimous decision and ending the decade-long reign of Klitschko.

Tommy Morrison vs Tim Tomashek, 30/08/93

Star of Rocky V, WBO heavyweight champion and coming off a win over George Foreman, Tommy Morrison was some specimen. He was preparing to face Mike Williams, the real-life fighter who had played his opponent Union Cane in the Rocky movie. 

While stage fright is not something you’d expect from someone who starred in boxing’s premiere film franchise, Williams got cold feet. With the boxer refusing to leave his dressing room, Tim Tomashek was procured from the crowd. A jobbing 34-10 heavyweight who had been knocked around by Frans Botha and Johnny Du Plooy in the past, he went from chugging beer in his seat to world title challenger in a matter of minutes. Unsurprisingly, the sozzled Tomashek was taken out in four rounds.

Mike Tyson vs Clifford Etienne, 22/02/03

A will-they-or-won’t-they tale that puts Ross and Rachel to shame, this fight suffered not one but two withdrawals. The notoriously mercurial ‘Iron’ Mike was the first to withdraw when his team could not get hold of him two days before the fight.

Tyson arrived in Las Vegas the following day, seemingly restoring the fight. Now it was Etienne’s turn to cancel, citing the fact some of his team had already left the Memphis site of the bout. But ‘The Black Rhino’ had a change of heart the following day and the fight went ahead. He might wish he hadn’t bothered, considering Tyson knocked him out in one round. It would be the last victory of Tyson’s professional career.

Oscar Valdez vs Robson Conceicao, 10/11/21

Because no scenario is truly unheard of in boxing, Benn and Eubank’s predicament does have precedent. Oscar Valdez tested positive for banned substance phentermine ahead of his WBC super featherweight title defence against Robson Conceicao.

Valdez’s B-sample tested positive too, which is common considering they are taken at the same time and from the same urine as the A-sample. But the fight went ahead, using the loophole that the World Anti-Doping Agency only bans stimulants in-competition. To add insult to injury for Conceicao, he was on the wrong end of a highly-disputed unanimous decision defeat.

Muhammad Ali vs Trevor Berbick, 11/12/81

The final fight of ‘The Greatest’ should never have happened for a number of reasons. Chiefly, the fact Ali had been mercilessly battered by Larry Holmes in his last fight. Secondly, Ali was an old 39 years of age considering the decades of ring wars he had participated in.

But the fight nearly didn’t happen for various reasons. For a start, someone had misplaced the key to the venue, the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in the Bahamas. Then, when people finally filed in, there were no boxing gloves on the premises. Two pairs were procured and used by every fighter on the card. Then there was no ringbell, with a cowbell found and repurposed to toll the end of the career of Muhammad Ali. The icon would lose by unanimous decision. He deserved so much better than this farce.

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