Benn to box in Florida despite dirty PED tests, no resolution
British junior middleweight added to Matchroom Boxing's DAZN card
A note to Fight Freaks Unite readers: I created Fight Freaks Unite in January 2021 and eight months later it also became available for paid subscriptions for additional content — and as a way to help keep this newsletter going and for readers to support independent journalism. If you haven’t upgraded to a paid subscription please consider it. If you have already, I truly appreciate it! Also, consider a gift subscription for the Fight Freak in your life.
Despite two positive drug tests for a banned performance-enhancing drug in separate incidents months apart — and neither case having been fully adjudicated by British authorities — England’s Conor Benn will box for the first time in 17 months on Saturday.
Benn, who cannot get a license in his home country, will face Rodolfo Orozco in a hastily-arranged 10-round junior middleweight bout in Orlando, Florida, Matchroom Boxing announced on Wednesday.
Rumors had swirled for days that Benn would make his return on the card. His bout is slotted as the co-feature on the DAZN show headlined by junior welterweight Richardson Hitchins against former three-time world title challenger Jose Zepeda at the Caribe Royale Resort.
“Conor Benn is back and I’m looking forward to seeing him pick up where he left off,” Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said in a statement. “He’s ready to go straight in for a big fight now but his trainer, Tony Sims, will be pleased to get him back sooner against a game opponent in Rodolfo Orozco. Conor is looking unbelievable in the gym and I cannot wait to see him back in the ring where he belongs.”
Benn was licensed by the Florida Athletic Commission after the Association of Boxing Commissions, a national non-profit organization that oversees and interprets rules for state and tribal athletic commissions in the United States, removed him from the national suspension list. That paved the way for Benn to be granted a Florida license.
“I am undefeated in the ring, and in spirit,” Benn said in a statement. “A return on Saturday is a step closer to redemption. After that, I’m putting the 147-160 divisions on notice. You are looking at a determined man with a deep desire to beat them all.”
Benn (21-0, 14 KOs), 26, has not boxed since a second-round knockout of Chris van Heerden in April 2022 in Manchester, England. He was then scheduled for a pay-per-view headliner against Chris Eubank Jr. in a massively hyped 157-pound catch weight bout in a rekindling of the iconic 1990s rivalry between their fathers, British legends and former world titleholders Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank Sr., on Oct. 8 at the sold-out O2 in London.
However, days before the bout England’s Daily Mail revealed that that Benn had tested positive for the banned substance Clomiphene, which is used to boost testosterone in men, in a urine test conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on Sept. 1 for which results were returned Sept. 23. VADA was contracted by the fighters to test them in the lead up to the fight while UK Anti-Doping also was testing them.
Matchroom Boxing and Eubank promoter Wasserman Boxing planned to go through with the bout, but when the test results were made public, the British Boxing Board of Control refused to sanction the bout, in part due to heavy public pressure, and it was canceled. Matchroom Boxing and Wasserman at first attempted to argue that the BBBofC should only recognize UKAD test results, not results from an outside company in VADA — even though the boxers contracted with VADA for testing.
It later was revealed that months earlier Benn, who relinquished his British boxing license (before it would have been suspended or revoked) after the fight was canceled, failed a WBC Clean Boxing Program drug test, also administered by VADA, for the same substance.
Benn has all along proclaimed his innocence but was provisionally suspended by UK Anti-Doping in March and was facing at least a two-year backdated ban if found guilty.
Upgrade to a paid subscription for full access to all posts and comments, and also to support independent journalism
Benn appealed the UKAD suspension. In July, the National Anti-Doping Panel announced Benn was clear to fight but only due to a technicality related to the jurisdiction, not because he was found not to have used PEDs.
In other words, the National Anti-Doping Panel did not question the veracity the VADA tests, which Benn had. Instead, it lifted the provisional suspension because UKAD is the national anti-doping agency in the U.K. and has jurisdiction. Therefore, it could not suspend Benn based on results from VADA, an outside agency.
The BBBofC, which regulates boxing in the U.K., and UKAD, which handles testing, both are appealing the National Anti-Doping Panel decision and will not license Benn at this point.
With no date for a hearing set, at least not publicly, Matchroom Boxing made overtures to the Florida commission about Benn fighting there on Saturday. That request was met positively, a source with knowledge of those discussions told Fight Freaks Unite.
But before Florida could license Benn, the ABC would have to remove him from the national suspension list. Benn had been on the ABC suspension list since soon after the Eubank fight was canceled.
In recent days or weeks, Benn was required to submit a negative drug test, which he did. At that point, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Florida commission executive director Tim Shipman contacted ABC president Mike Mazzulli and asked that Benn be taken off suspension because he had not boxed for 17 months and had provided a negative test. Benn will also be required to submit another negative pre-fight test, according to the source. He will also be tested post fight.
Not only was the ABC sympathetic to Benn’s cause, but also working in his favor was that, according to the source, the BBBofC failed to provide Florida or the ABC the detailed information it had requested related to Benn’s case or a timeline for when it would be resolved.
Orozco (32-3-3, 24 KOs), 24, of Mexico, has faced low-level opposition throughout his eight-year career and will take a massive step up in competition. He will fight outside of his home country for the first time. He has won two fights in a row since a 10-round decision loss to Isaias Lucero in May 2022.
“This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. This isn’t short notice for me because I’ve been preparing for this moment my entire life,” Orozco said. “You’ve made a mistake Conor, and I’ll show you that this Saturday.”
Interviews with Jesus Ramos and Erickson Lubin in this special edition podcast.
Also subscribe to the podcast. Upcoming one-on-one interviews include Canelo Alvarez, Tim Tszyu and Amanda Serrano
A note to subscribers
I sincerely appreciate your readership. If you’re reading, it means you love boxing just like I do. If you’ve been reading you also know the quality and quantity of what I produce. It’s one-stop shopping. Read the newsletters and there is no need to search multiple websites or click a multitude of links to get the latest news, opinion and detailed fight schedule. Everything you need is in one spot and delivered directly to your inbox (or via phone alert if you download for free the superb Substack app). You don’t have to hunt for the news; it comes to you.
I believe that is worth something, so while I will continue providing stories, notes and the schedule for free, I encourage you to upgrade to a paid subscription for the most content. A paid subscription is your way of keeping this reader-supported newsletter going and supporting independent journalism. I am beholden to no network, promoter, manager, sanctioning body or fighter. If you have read my work at all during the past 23 years I’ve covered professional boxing you know that I keep it real and that will not change.
To upgrade your subscription please go here:
Thank you so much for your support of Fight Freaks Unite!
Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danrafael1/
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanRafael1
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanRafaelBoxing