Conor Benn steps into a Las Vegas ring as a 10-1 favourite to beat American Peter Dobson on Saturday night full of regret over the handling of his performance-enhancing drug ordeal stemming back to the scheduled - then cancelled fight against Chris Eubank Jnr in October 2022.
Benn, undefeated then and undefeated still, has an appeal hearing still to be concluded this month brought by the Boxing Board of Control and UK Anti-Doping, but the 26-year-old revealed that an annus horribilis had seen him close to taking his own life, through “shame”, and that he was “sorry” how the affair had been handled.
Benn, if he overcomes Dobson on Saturday night, has huge plans for 2024, under promoter Eddie Hearn, which includes pursuing the very best in the 147-pound welterweight limit and the ambition of a world title fight.
Benn is yet to be re-licensed in the UK, pending the hearing, but insists now that he can ill-afford to be sidelined any longer, over a case in which he has maintained his innocence after two tests showed the alleged use of clomifene, a banned substance that boosts testosterone in the body.
“Obviously we won the case last year, so we won the hearing, it’s obviously frustrating for me that the appeal has taken place, and I’m a bit disappointed in the stance they’ve taken with me in comparison to other fighters in the past but nonetheless I’m in this situation so it is what it is and you just have to accept it is what it is.”
Benn explained: “I said a lot of things that I regret, my attitude towards it was wrong, and I understand, but you have to go through it to learn, I have had to go through that to realise a lot, slagging everyone else off, I apologise, to the [British Boxing] Board I apologise, it’s like I just don’t want no conflict, I just want this to finish.
“All I can control is what I can control and let my team and everyone else take care of everything else, because the reality is I’m a fighter and I love to fight and this is what I love to do. I used this time to grow, to develop, to become a better fighter, to mature, and that’s what my team have enabled me to do, so anyway.
“There’s nothing I can do to change people’s opinions, I feel like those who have made up their mind have made up their mind, and those who believe me believe me, there’s nothing more I can do. I’ve shouted from the rooftop, I’ve expressed myself, and I’m willing to spend every last penny I have to fight my innocence, that’s how much this means to me.”
‘I’ve just been through the worst year and a half of my life’
Chris Eubank Sr, meanwhile, told Telegraph Sport this week that he believes the fight with his son Chris Eubank Jr is dead in the water. Eubank, who fought Nigel Benn in two of the biggest grudge fights in British boxing history over thirty years ago, insisted that Eubank Jr should not be cutting weight to fight Benn.
“My son is walking around at 13st 5lbs - that’s 187 pounds - and it would be madness for his son to “boil down” to 160lbs. He will never make 160 [the middleweight limit] for a fight with Benn [who would be coming up to weight divisions]. The Benn-Eubank fight that should be made is with my nephew Harlem Eubank, at 147 pounds. I know what I’m talking about, and I tell the promoters - they cannot be running amok. I’ve always been against Benn fighting my son, and my son losing weight dangerously.”
Benn, nonetheless, has bigger issues to deal with this weekend, and again revealed his inner battles. His eyes growing wet, Benn added: “This has been hard, man, the hardest thing for me to deal with is the shame, I get so emotional talking about it. I just can’t do anything to change what it is, I have to accept it.
“There are those that believe me; those that don’t. What I do pray is that in five or 10 years time - because I know I’m innocent - when it does come out and athletes start testing positive for this, that I was telling the truth the whole time. That’s my prayer. I care about my name, I care about how people see me, I care about being a good role model.”
Benn added: “I’ve just been through the worst year and a half of my life - I’m just excited to get back out and do what I do and just remind people why I’m still one of the biggest names that’s spoken about in boxing, linked with the big names in boxing. I have big fights in me, and I need to get this next win, because without it, there are no big fights.”
Conor Benn vs Peter Dobson is live on DAZN on Saturday night at 10.30pm.