Benn admits damage to family name has been ‘the worst thing’

Conor Benn admits it is the damage his two-failed PED tests has caused his family’s reputation that has been the worst part of the saga that has engulfed British boxing for almost 18 months.

Benn maintains his innocence following two positive results ahead of a scheduled bout with Chris Eubank Jr in 2022.

The world changed dramatically for Benn, then, and he vigorously and strenuously defended himself in the aftermath, resulting in months of back and forth with the British Boxing Board of Control and UKAD, who are currently appealing the NDP’s decision to lift Benn’s suspension.

Benn, 27-years-old and 22-0 (14 KOs) as a pro, is the son of Nigel Benn, a middleweight and super-middleweight warrior and legend who is on the International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot and idolized by British fight fans, for the exciting wars he was in and the heart and courage he took with him into the ring.

Speaking of the impact on the Benn name, Conor confessed on a recent call with journalists: “It was hard, man. It was the worst thing. That was the hardest thing for me to deal with. That was the hardest thing. Man, I just get so emotional talking about it...”

Benn paused at this point to gather himself. There were several points on the call when Benn became emotional.

“It was hard man,” he continued. “Because part of me wished that I had done it, and that’s the worst thing. It’s like I can’t do anything to change what it is, and I have to accept it, become accepting that this is what it is, and there’s nothing I can do. My dad still loves me. I still love my dad. My son still loves me. I have loads of supporters out there who have backed me. Again, those who will always believe will always believe, and those who won’t, won’t. What I do pray is that in five years’ time, 10 years’ time – I know I’m innocent – when this does come out and athletes start testing positive for it [clomephine] on the regular, they’ll say, ‘Okay, hold on a minute. Conor was telling the truth the whole time’. That’s my prayer, and the four athletes to be tested positive from it within a year that I know of, because they’re not high profile – I’m the highest profile who’s tested positive for it – what then? Will then there be real redemption of, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s been telling the truth this whole time’? Because the evidence is still out there on the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] website for people to see, just because I’m the highest profile I’m getting a lot of heat for it, but there really is an issue with it. Whether it comes out in three years, four years, five years, I pray that my evidence is used as a measuring stick.” 

There are still a lot of sceptics. As Benn said, the dye has been cast and many have made their minds up about his innocence or guilt. There are plenty, however, who simply wanted due process to be done, for a hearing to deduce a conclusion about how the substance got into his body. Benn wants to box in England again, and sooner than later. For the meantime, he is on the road and having boxed in Florida in September, he now boxes Peter Dobson in Las Vegas on February 3 at The Cosmopolitan Hotel. But Benn has freely-admitted to the bout of depression, suicidal thoughts and self-doubts he has been experienced, and they were heightened when he was exposed to a large crowd for one of the first times after the news broke. 

Benn attended the Anthony Joshua fight with Jermaine Franklin in April, and was happy with the reception he received from the fans. So, does he think there are more supporters or haters?

“Man, that’s a hard question,” he said, having given the answer some thought. “Because social media is really the minority, and social media has a loud voice. To put it into perspective, I went to AJ [Anthony Joshua] versus [Jermaine] Franklin, and when I talk about anxiety, I was like, ‘Man, I’m not ready to confront this’. I had my security with me, I thought I’d have security there for other reasons, and when I mean I got absolutely mobbed, like I couldn’t walk – when I mean mobbed I mean mobbed – I was like, ‘Wow, social media is the minority’. It was only then it took me to realise that social media is fake. 

“That was where I lived [in social media], because that was all I saw from them, so I didn’t leave the house, I didn’t want to go out. I’d walk into Sainsbury’s [supermarket] and have to walk back home and forget the shop, because I just couldn’t handle it. There’s still some places I haven’t gone, because of the feelings, you know? I’m still human, and I’m one hell of a fighter. Am I bold and fearless? Yeah, but I’m still human, and I’m not like one of these fighters who don’t care about their image. I care about my name, I care about how people see me. I care about being a good role model. I want my son to look at all of this and see that, ‘Dad handled this well’. So I care. I’m not just going to brush it off and go, ‘I don’t care, I’m getting paid’. That ain’t my mindset. I’ve worked extremely hard and discipline has got me where I have. But in terms of how the public see me, I’ve never been shown nothing but love, so I have to go on face value.”

In terms of how he has dealt with it, Benn said he has learned and would have done things differently but said that last year, 2023, was notably better than the year before.

“Nah, [2023 was] definitely not the worst one,” Benn added. “I’d probably say [20]22 was the worst year, ’23 was the year of learning, growing, building resilience and strength, and probably say, finding it easier to accept in 2023. I found [that] I had become more accepting of the situation that I was in, so yeah I’d probably say that 2023 was a good year. I found out that I’m having little daughter, which is a blessing. [I] spent a lot of time with my dad, saw my family back home in Australia, so it was a year of growth in my personal self. 

“There were situations that I’d found myself in, where I was able to change as a man and as an individual, become a better dad, a better man, and this really has made me a better man for it.”