OUR REASONING for breaking the story on Conor Benn’s provisional suspension with UKAD was purely from a desire to see the correct processes followed and an indication that, at last, they are being followed.

As the editor of Boxing News, I am conscious of the sport’s image to the outside world, a view too often ignored by those working within the industry, and I remain certain that Benn fighting in a high-profile bout on foreign territory, prior to responding to doping charges, is a woeful look that only heightens the perception that boxing is an open shop in which the rich and most influential roam free.

Eddie Hearn declined the offer to speak on record when I gave him the chance on Tuesday last week, hours before the story was published on our website. But, to his credit, a somewhat exasperated Hearn didn’t shy away from the issue when asked by numerous online video outlets in Cardiff on Thursday April 20, ahead of Joe Cordina’s wonderful victory over Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov last week.

He insists that he did not know about the suspension prior to BN contacting him. That might be true – all we know for certain is that Benn was notified of the suspension. And if true, it surely means that Conor, who Hearn has defended completely since news of two failed tests emerged last year, kept the information from his promoter. Therefore, it’s surprising that Hearn chooses to take out his frustration on anyone other than the boxer he has paid handsomely in recent years. It is Benn who failed the tests and, presuming Benn read the email that was sent informing him of the suspension on March 15, it is Benn who did not subsequently inform Hearn.

More bothersome, however, is the promoter’s insistence that the information was leaked to Boxing News by either UKAD or the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC). That, he cannot possibly know. Importantly, considering it’s an opinion that he dressed up as a fact in several interviews, it is also untrue.

His reasoning for such a claim is that Amir Khan’s case with UKAD, which resulted in him being banned for two years, was ‘kept quiet’ for 14 months. Fourteen months, don’t forget, in which Khan announced his retirement and settled into the role of an ex-boxer. There were no negotiations about fighting again so why would any journalist even begin to investigate the legality of him doing so? More pertinently, the test that Khan failed was conducted after his contest with Kell Brook and therefore had no bearing on a bout taking place, which is very different from Benn failing two VADA tests in the build-up to a belatedly aborted contest with Chris Eubank Jnr and then making plans to fight again before conclusively clearing his name.

Hearn went on to say that Benn is unlikely to get a fair trial from UKAD if they or the Board are leaking information. There was an insinuation that both organisations hold a vendetta against Benn. On record, I can say I have seen zero evidence of this. On record, I can also confirm that neither the Board nor UKAD would talk about the suspension when I asked them directly about it, much less confirm whether it was true or not. Also, considering we’re often told by certain powerbrokers that nobody reads Boxing News anymore it would have been a strange choice of outlet to leak information to if the purpose was maximum exposure. Regardless, there was no leak from anyone at the Board or UKAD.

UKAD confirmed the suspension last week, two days after the BN story was published. Benn, 26, has been charged under article 2.2 for the “alleged use of a prohibited substance.” Benn’s point of view, that’s it’s unfair that the whole world now knows he must answer charges that would otherwise have remained confidential if news of that suspension had not been made public, is completely understood. The 26-year-old is certainly in a difficult position. Most importantly of all, however, his legal team are now dealing with UKAD to resolve what has been a black mark on boxing’s reputation for far too long. Whether that communication would have been forthcoming without the story being published is unknown.

What happens next is also uncertain. Benn has long insisted he has all the evidence to clear his name, which is believed to focus on faults with the testing procedures of VADA. If that evidence is as clearcut as we’re led to believe, UKAD – who don’t forget tested Benn last year and returned clean results – will likely remove the suspension. If not, his case will be heard by the National Anti-Doping Panel. Should he then receive a ban, the option is there to appeal. If that is rejected, he can take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

If Benn is cleared, and we hope that is the outcome if what he’s always claimed is true, then it calls into question the procedures of an agency – VADA – we have long regarded as the gold standard in drug testing. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that steps must be taken by the governing parties to ensure we’re not faced with such a woeful mess again. The need for uniformity has never been more keenly felt.

On Saturday morning (April 22) a calmer Hearn told iFL TV that the previously proposed June 3 date for a Benn comeback on foreign soil would now likely be pushed back. But only by a matter of weeks. Assuming what is certain to be a complicated process between UKAD and Benn has not been resolved by then, that’s a bullish and brazen middle finger to authorities that will do nothing whatsoever to improve the situation. It could also leave Hearn, Benn and any Board licensees involved with further charges to face and trigger another media storm that the sport of boxing can well do without.

Hearn’s loyalty to Benn can be admired but one hopes that promoter and boxer now understand what’s really at stake.

Conor Benn (Julian Finney/Getty Images)


A delight to see Regan and co get the recognition they deserve

ON Sunday afternoon I attended a fund-raising lunch held by Ringside Charitable Trust in Hastings. The likes of John Conteh, Duke and Clinton McKenzie, James Cook, Derek Williams, Ross Minter, Jimmy Batten and Robbie Regan were in attendance. It was a lovely afternoon which came after a night watching two supreme contests (Cordina-Rakhimov and Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia). To say those 16 or so hours restored my faith in the sport would be an understatement.

If anyone needs any further evidence that RCT is a vital component in British boxing, they should attend one of their events. To see the former champions, Regan in particular, visibly moved by the applause they receive is a joy. It’s a sad fact that boxers like Regan can feel lost and ignored in the real world. But they come alive when in the company of those who know exactly how special they are.

It was announced that Boxxer’s Ben Shalom is the first major UK promoter to agree to publicly support the charity designed to help ex-boxers. That is a huge breakthrough and credit to Shalom and his team for making that step. One hopes the rest will now follow.