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A failed drugs test and Olympic bedlam - the future of boxing has never been as bleak

Conor Benn insists he is a “clean athlete” and believes Saturday’s fight with Chris Eubank Jr will still go ahead© PA

Seán McGoldrickIndependent.ie

The moral bankruptcy of professional boxing and the chaos within the amateur branch of the sport converged in an extraordinary series of seismic events yesterday.

Even by the tawdry standards in the professional game, the decision of Matchroom, the sport’s leading promoter, to defy the wishes of the sport’s governing body and press ahead with Saturday’s planned showdown between Chris Eubank Jr and Conor Benn, though the latter has failed a dope test, represents a new low.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, this is a sport which tolerated the involvement of gangland figure Daniel Kinahan at the highest level until he was sanctioned by the US Treasury.

The boss of Matchroom, Eddie Hearn, is an urbane, suave, multi-millionaire. But sadly, he has lost his moral compass along the way. The only thing that seems to matter to him now is how to turn another pound.

He will probably get his way and the fight will go ahead at London’s 02 Arena, but boxing’s last shred of credibility will vanish when the first bell sounds.

The background to the contest is that Eubank Jr and Benn are the respective sons of Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn, who had two memorable fights in the 1990s.

A clash between their sons was an obvious box-office attraction even though Eubank Jr and Conor Benn fight at different weights.

Unbeaten Benn (21-0) will have to add 10lbs to make the catch weight of 157lbs, whereas Eubank Jr (32-2) will have to be six pounds lighter than his normal weigh-in mark.

There are no world belts on offer but 20,000 tickets had been sold, while Hearn predicted there would be one million pay-per-view sales.

He was exaggerating, but it is safe to assume it would be the biggest career pay day for both fighters.

Then everything went pear-shaped yesterday at lunchtime when it was revealed that Benn had failed a dope test – trace amounts of a fertility drug were found in his system in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) test. The substance can be used to boost sport performance and counter the side effects of anabolic steroid use.

Astonishingly, Matchroom responded by stating the fight was going ahead because the ‘B’ sample had yet to be tested, which meant Benn had not been suspended.

As excuses go this is in ‘the dog ate my homework’ territory but then came the news that the British Boxing Board of Control had “prohibited” the fight as “it wasn’t in the interest of boxing”.

Hearn said last night the issue was in the hands of his lawyers, hinting that the courts would decide the fate of the contest. Somebody needs to tell him to stop digging before he completely buries his reputation.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, the president of the International Boxing Association (IBA) Umar Kremlev announced that the ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers taking part in international championships had been lifted.

The decision has immediate implications for the likes of Kellie Harrington and Amy Broadhurst who are part of an Irish squad due to take part in the European Elite Championships in Montenegro next week.

If Russian and Belarusian fighters turn up, will the Irish fighters and their colleagues from western Europe face them in the ring as the war in Ukraine continues?

The future of the two strands of the sport has rarely looked as bleak.


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