Chris Eubank Jr. faces former world welterweight champion Liam Smith in Manchester on Saturday, but talk of fighting Conor Benn has not faded.
Eubank (33-2, 23 KOs), 33, was supposed to fight Benn in a non-title catchweight clash between the sons of two of Britain’s most famous boxers in one of the biggest fights in the United Kingdom last year.
But Benn (21-0, 14 KOs), 26, tested positive for the female fertility drug clomiphene, which forced the fight to be cancelled just two days before it was scheduled on Oct. 8.
UK Anti-Doping, the British Boxing Board of Control and the WBC world boxing body are investigating Benn, who insists he is innocent and blames “contamination” for positive results in tests by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.
Despite the controversy and uncertainty over Benn’s career, middleweight contender Eubank believes a fight with Benn can still happen.
“Can the fight still happen? Absolutely, anything can happen, this is boxing,” Eubank told ESPN.
“I’m sure it will happen. When, I couldn’t tell you that, but now it’s a fight the whole nation wants to see, the entire boxing world wants to see. When he gets his stuff sorted out we can look at making the fight happen but it will not be at that crazy catchweight. He has lost all his privilege about me cutting weight.
“You can’t fail two tests and be clean but if we do fight he will have to be under strictest drug routine and rules because of what has happened so it will be impossible for him to be not clean.
“It was messed up, it still hasn’t really been sorted out and the fact that there are still so many questions around it is mind blowing.
“I’ve been frustrated, angry and disappointed and not just my time but the time of so many other people. All the fighters on the undercard lost out too, the fans lost out on travel and hotel arrangements, and then he doesn’t even have the balls to man up and goes missing for months.
“But we have our own narrative now, our own beef, it’s not just about who our fathers are. We have our own thing going on and he has to answer for what he has done.”
The sudden collapse of Eubank-Benn came as a shock, and Eubank was frustrated by not being made aware Benn had tested positive for a failed substance sooner.
On when he found out about the test result, Eubank said: “About 10 days before the fight, it was too late.
“By then I had done a full camp, I was confident, a lot of people had a lot invested in it and that’s why I didn’t say anything to anybody.
“Was it the right thing to do, I don’t known, but the public found out and the promoter [Eddie Hearn, of Matchroom] was forced to stop it.”
After getting down to a catchweight limit of 157 pounds for Benn, Eubank is returning to middleweight business at 160 pounds against English rival Smith at the Manchester Arena and is happy to be back at his natural weight.
“Those last few pounds make a huge difference, and it’s comforting to know I don’t have to go there this time. It’s a relief,” Eubank said.
“When I cut my weight for the Benn fight it felt horrible, especially because I knew nothing was going to come from it and I did it knowing the fight wasn’t going to happen, which made it even more gruelling. But I did it because I said I was going to do it.”
Four-weight world champion Roy Jones will be in Eubank’s corner; the American trainer arrived in the UK on Boxing Day.
Smith (32-3-1, 19 KOs), 34, from Liverpool, who made two defences as WBO welterweight champion in 2015 to 2016, is in dangerous form, after stopping his last three opponents including former world champion Jessie Vargas last year.
“Maybe on paper this fight [against Smith] is a better fight than Benn, but in my opinion he’s not a harder fight for me, because Conor has the youth, the undefeated spirit, and that unpredictability, fire and passion,” Eubank said.
“Liam doesn’t have that, he’s not unpredictable, he’s very ABC in what he does, and he will bring no surprises. I know how to deal with a fighter like that and I think it will be an easier fight.”
Eubank is No. 2 in the WBC rankings, a good position to pursue a challenge with WBC champion Jermall Charlo this year. But it is 40-year-old veteran Gennadiy Golovkin, the WBA and IBF world champion, whom the 33-year-old hopes victory over Smith leads him to.
“Liam Smith is on a roll, which is why this fight is happening, and the fight makes sense,” Eubank said.
“This would put me in a great position to fight the big names later in 2023, and Golovkin is the No. 1 on the list of fights I want, and he has the belts. This is crunch time now for me now, I have to fight these guys.
“There’s a lot of exciting fighters in the middleweight division, all the champions are good fighters, there are no weak links — 2023 is going to be a big year.
“I want Golovkin next. He shouldn’t have been allowed to go up to super middleweight and fight Canelo for his world titles. I want those belts, and I’m No 1 challenger.
“This time next year, I will be world champion.”