I feel like I’m the most wanted man in boxing – Conor Benn

Conor Benn returns to the ring this weekend in Las Vegas, with his stalemate with the British Boxing Board of Control and UKAD set to come to a head in the next week.

The Board and UKAD have both appealed the National Anti-Doping Panel’s decision to clear him to fight. It means Benn has not been reissued a license to box in the UK (he relinquished his over another matter), and so he boxes in the USA for the second consecutive time.

Benn takes on Peter Dobson in The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on Saturday, knowing that he would have rather been fighting a big name than the little-known but unbeaten New Yorker, who is 16-0 with nine stoppage wins. 

And through Benn’s 18-month or so saga, that all unraveled following two positive tests for clomiphene, there has been plenty of speculation about Benn fighting some of the best-known fighters in the sport. This week, he said he wants to fight Terence Crawford next. Had his issues been resolved in the UK, he likely would have been boxing Chris Eubank in a football stadium on Saturday instead, and he’s shared live rounds on social media with plenty of his contemporaries.

“[Tank] Davis, [Jarron] Ennis, [Devin] Haney, [Manny] Pacquiao, [Kell] Brook, Eubank, [Mario] Barrios… I feel like I’m the most wanted man in boxing,” said Benn, on a recent call with the British media. “I’ll fight anyone, any weight. I want the big fights. I’d fight at 147, that’s my preferred weight, I’d only go up to 160 for one man [Eubank], and the rest have to be at welterweight. 

“I’m not no middle [weight]. I’m definitely not a middle, probably I’m light-middle at the moment. I’ve decided I need to cut down on my weight and I’m a 147 fighter, but I can go up to 175, in shape. For the Eubank fight [which was imminent before the news of the tests surfaced], I was sparring light-heavyweights, I still spar light-heavyweights now and super-middles and I feel perfectly strong and capable to spar those guys and I don’t mean super-middles and light-heavies who aren’t good, I mean boys in our gym who are strong, capable, decorated amateurs.”

Benn said he is keen to pick up from where he left off after destructive performances against Chris Algieri and Chris van Heerden, and his team has made it clear that his future and the big fights lie in the UK, but Benn said a Eubank fight is not on his mind ahead of Dobson.

“That ain’t my priority at the minute,” he said. “That’s down to my team to make big fights, I was willing to go up to 160 to make a big fight, I’m here for it. It’s just down to them delivering.”

With the fallout of the failed VADA and WBC Clean Boxing Program tests going on, Benn’s career obviously stalled. He fought vigorously to clear his name and is still adamant he is innocent of any wrongdoing. 

But the 27-year-old was unspectacular against Rodolfo Orozco – who subsequently failed a test after their September fight in Florida – although Benn takes confidence from comparing results of his rivals against the same opposition.

Vergil Ortiz took seven rounds to beat Sammy Vargas, who in his next fight lost in a round to Benn. 

Van Heerden was cut and stopped a fight with Ennis, and then bashed in two by Benn in his next outing.

“You’ve got a kid who’s come from no amateur experience – and I ain’t crying about it because I’m still one hell of a fighter – look how far I’ve come,” Benn added. “That’s not where I’m going with this, but I had to learn on big shows. There was a big platform early in my career, I made mistakes. All the mistakes I made, I made early on, but being on the big shows enables you to deal with pressure. It’s put me in good stead for now. As far as development goes, look at Vergil Ortiz, people saying pound-for-pound lists, look at the fight with Samuel Vargas… I got rid of him [Vargas] in a round, it took Ortiz seven. Then you’re talking Jarron Ennis fighting van Heerden, and van Heerden was a late replacement and van Heerden had had a full eight-week camp and look how I got rid of him. When you want to do the comparisons, I feel us British fighters aren’t put on the same pedestal as them, but the reality is my performances, when it’s been put in front of me, I’ve delivered as much as they have. 

“People want to give all these guys praise, but why is the British fighter not put on that platform, when I’ve fought exactly the same opponent and done exactly the same thing if not better, with more tenacity, more ferocity, more spite? You ask me why I’m ready for Haney, or ready for Ennis, that’s my measuring stick. I’m able to learn and grow every single day in the gym. I’m learning. I stayed disciplined. Even when I’ve had all this going on, I stayed in the gym. And I use that as fuel to drive me, to motivate me and push me to be better. I’m not what you say I am, I am what I say I am. And I continue to prove what I say I am. That’s my mindset. Why do I feel like I’m up there? That’s why.”