The news begins to filter in around 14:00 BST on Thursday, October 6 – Chris Eubank Jr v Conor Benn on Saturday night has been canceled.
Many people gathered in the Canary Riverside Plaza Hotel lobby have been waiting for this decision since news of Benn’s failed drug test broke on Wednesday morning.
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Benn had tested positive for a prohibited substance in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (Vada) test, or had a “adverse analytical finding for trace amounts of a fertility drug,” as his promoters put it.
The media and undercard fighters, including light heavyweight Lydon Arthur and bantamweight Shannon Courtenay, are still crammed into the lobby.
Eddie Hearn, the promoter, appears unexpectedly and walks upstairs. Benn and his father Nigel then leave quietly and out of sight of the press. Versace luggage is being loaded into a car.
About an hour and a half later, middleweight Felix Cash, who was scheduled to fight on the undercard, departs from the same parking lot. He shares a coach with Benn and appears to be irritated. Hearn has already left once more.
Still, Arthur and Courtenay are left in the lobby, unaware that the entire card, not just the main event, has been canceled.
At 16:06, the official announcement is made via press release. Hearn and Eubank’s promoter Kalle Sauerland hold a nearly four-minute press conference.
The media is not permitted to ask questions.
It caps off a disastrous week for British boxing that could have been much worse had Benn v Eubank Jr gone ahead.
In the end, common sense won out, even if promoters Matchroom and its partners pointed the finger squarely at the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC).
On Wednesday, the Board “prohibited” the fight “as it is not in the interests of boxing,” essentially saying it would not sanction it. Despite the pressures, it appears to have stuck to its guns.
“It was a bad day for boxing, but the right result was achieved,” BBC Radio 5 Live’s Steve Bunce said.
“They’re businessmen, so they wanted it to happen,” Carl Froch said of the fight night organizers’ efforts.
“However, in boxing, the safety of the fighters is paramount, and 99% of people will agree it’s the right decision.”
Conor “The Destroyer” Benn has received enormous investment. This week, some estimates placed the fight’s value at £15 million.
Benn, 26, is the second most marketable celebrity for Matchroom after Anthony Joshua. In the UK, DAZN’s boxing coverage features him prominently.
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He has steadily developed into a devastating knockout artist on the verge of a welterweight world title opportunity. He is the son of boxing icon Nigel.
Fans and organizers were willing to ignore the three weight differences between Benn and Eubank in order to make the so-called “super fight” this Saturday at the O2 Arena in London because of Benn’s rising star.
All eyes were on Eubank, 33, and his weight cut from middleweight to 157 pounds – a weight he has never fought at as a professional.
However, with the fight being canceled due to a positive drugs test, questions about boxing’s anti-doping protocols are being raised. Benn is in the eye of the storm and is now fighting for his reputation.