Matchroom preparing alternative Benn opponent for February 3

Matchroom hope to confirm next week that Conor Benn will fight on February 3 – but not against Chris Eubank Jr.

The inability to agree terms with Eubank Jr to revive what would represent one of the biggest fights in British boxing and the biggest of both of their careers means that the promoter and Benn are – for now – moving on.

Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn hopes that the fight between the bitter rivals can still be revived for the summer. But though Benn is yet to be cleared of any wrongdoing over his twice testing positive for clomifene in the build-up to his abandoned date in 2022 with Eubank Jr, his promoter insists that his next fight could yet be staged in the UK.

He returned to the ring in September with victory over Rodolfo Orozco, and while a ruling in his favour by the independent National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP) in July meant his suspension being lifted, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), who had provisionally suspended him, have not yet officially cleared him, and confirmed that they were launching an appeal against the ruling from the NADP.

“It’s very difficult to say ‘It’s so frustrating’, because Chris Eubank Jr will say ‘You’re not giving me enough money’,” Hearn told ProBox TV. “But when you know the numbers inside out – and I never say to a fighter ‘You should just take the deal’, but when it’s so many millions and there’s no other fight that even comes close to this for you, to not get it done is idiotic. 

“But he’s his own man. So I can’t knock him. But I don’t know what more you can do than what we tried to do.

“I feel for Kalle [Sauerland, Eubank Jr’s promoter], because he was desperate to – everyone was desperate to – make the fight. Listen, it may still happen, but not on February 3.

“Conor’s going to fight February 3 – he wants to fight [Devin] Haney, ‘Tank’ [Gervonta Davis], [Jaron] Ennis, and I just think he’s got such a big future ahead of him, but he’s also making up for lost time. So he’s saying, ‘If it’s not Eubank, give me the biggest one you can find’. Devin wants the fight. February 3’s gonna be difficult, but he’s not injured, so who knows? We just need to get him back in the ring and his fight will be announced next week.

“[It will be] probably in the UK, but it could be in America.”

That Devin Haney fought and won at 140lbs when outpointing Regis Prograis only last weekend makes it a near-certainty that he will not fight in February.

Hearn was then asked if the potential for a fight with Benn to become a disciplinary matter for the British Boxing Board of Control had contributed to Eubank Jr’s reluctance to agree terms, but he responded: “No, he’s not concerned about that. 

“He’s got his idea of a number, and I don’t know how we get there without us losing a load of money, and it’s one thing saying it does all these buys – which I think it does – but then you’ve got to back yourself for it to do that, rather than just take a guarantee that it’s going to do that. 

“And there’s a huge amount of bad blood, because of what happened last time; because of the history, so then it becomes even more difficult, and it’s just a, ‘Alright, don’t worry about it’. ‘Okay. Bye.’ That was the point we reached last weekend. It’s not a game of bluff. ‘They’ll be back.’ We can’t be back now. I think he thinks we’re still coming back.

“I don’t think it’s anything [personal] between us, he’s just very, very stubborn. I never knock a fighter for wanting as much as they can get, but after three months of negotiations, surely you realise this is it. Not, ‘There’s another couple of mill there’. We’ve done everything. We’ve moved heaven and earth to try and get you in the fight, but we just can’t this time.”