Doping Ruling Pending And Eubank Moving On: What Next For Conor Benn?

'The Destroyer' has a lot to consider
08:00, 18 Jul 2023

Conor Benn has made no secret of the fact he wants to fight Chris Eubank Jr. Even now, as he battles the failed drugs test that put paid to that match, the 26-year-old is banging the drum for the Eubank bout on social media. A penny for his thoughts then on the fact his desired foe seems set to face Liam Smith in September rather than fight him in a rescheduled rematch.

Eubank has several motivations for picking Smith over Benn at this juncture. Firstly, Smith beat the breaks off him in January, knocking him out in four rounds. Eubank’s first loss in five years, there is a natural warrior’s desire to right a wrong at play here. Secondly, Benn’s future is still incredibly up in the air. To hear Benn and his team speak, all roads lead through Eubank. But for ‘NextGen’ it isn’t that simple and swerving Benn altogether actually has its advantages.

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Firstly there is the small matter of possible UKAD sanctions for Benn. Reportedly, the welterweight contender is waiting to hear back on an appeal that took place last week. Benn and his team went before the National Anti-Doping Panel via video call. The matter stems from Benn’s failed drugs test ahead of his cancelled fight with Eubank last October. That bout was withdrawn due to the banned substance clomifene being found in Benn’s system.

Matchroom chief Eddie Hearn, who promotes Benn, seems confident of a positive outcome given the fact he has been touting various potential fights for his man. In an interview with the DAZN Boxing Show earlier this month, Hearn acknowledged a rumoured bout with Manny Pacquiao that has been discussed in the past. But during the chat, he focused mainly on a Eubank fight. It seems like the thinking in Camp Benn was that the UKAD issue would be resolved in time to fight Eubank in September.

Eubank may not have shared that confidence, given the fact he is looking likely to fight Smith instead. Perhaps he is motivated by revenge after what ‘Beefy’ did to him in January. Maybe he does not want to risk wasting more time waiting for Benn, particularly if a similar issue were to occur ahead of a rescheduled fight.

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Initially, this sort of response will smart for Benn. He was on the cusp of the biggest fight of his career only to see it snatched away. This is punishment and it is one that, counterintuitive to his in-ring activities, he must take on the chin. Ditto any ban that is doled out to him. But then, once any sentence is served, Benn should be allowed to move on from this dark period of his life.

Not that ‘The Destroyer’ will ever truly escape what has taken place. But then do we not laud other fighters who have failed drugs tests once they have served their time. Tyson Fury, Mike Tyson, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Roy Jones Jr, Pernell Whitaker. As much a roll call of boxing greats as it is a list of fighters who failed anti-doping tests. None are innocent but all served their time and Benn will too. He has missed out on the biggest payday of his career and it is probably fair and just that the fight isn’t immediately revived. But Benn should be allowed to fight on.

It may benefit the 26-year-old to do so at a lower level for a while. For a start, he’s not fought in a year-and-a-half. A short-format undercard bout to blow off the cobwebs is close to essential. Secondly, the wider scrutiny of being an arena headliner would probably be a difficult obstacle at this juncture. Main eventing brings greater focus and more questions that Benn might find tough to answer at this stage. Better to come back a little further down the card. The scrutiny is unavoidable but the media obligations will be less taxing and the level of opposition more manageable for a fighter out of practice.

Benn will probably get some measure of stick for the rest of his career, particularly if his journey doesn’t hit the heights of his father, Nigel. That was always a risk in bearing the family name in a sport your father transcended at his peak. But now a world title is almost a prerequisite to acceptance for Conor Benn. A belt doesn’t bring forgiveness but as in the case of ‘Canelo’, Jones Jr and the rest, it can at least justify a resolve to carry on. Once he has served his penalty, Benn deserves to fight on. What he must realise is that it will not be easy.

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