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Conor Benn defiant on doping saga: ‘I’m willing to spend every last penny I have to fight my innocence’

“If the evidence shows I’m guilty, ban me for life.”

It’s not the sort of statement you expect to hear from a boxer who twice returned adverse analytical findings in 2022, causing the biggest fight of his life to collapse and his world in the sport as he knew it to fall apart.

But Conor Benn remains fiercely convinced of his innocence. Over the course of 45 minutes talking to UK boxing reporters, ostensibly to promote his February 3 fight in Las Vegas against undefeated and largely unknown American Peter Dobson, Benn had plenty to get off his chest and was at turns defiant, remorseful and emotional.

By way of a recap, the 27-year-old’s proposed October 2022 meeting with Chris Eubank Jr. — a contrast pulling at the nostalgic heartstrings of a nation as it echoed their fathers’ seismic battles three decades earlier — fell apart when it emerged he had tested positive for the banned substance clomiphene.

WATCH: Benn vs. Dobson live on DAZN

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) said it would not sanction the contest and, in the aftermath, it emerged Benn had failed a second test for the testosterone-boosting female fertility drug during the build-up.

In February 2022, the WBC – which oversaw Benn’s July 2022 positive as part of its Clean Boxing Program — allowed the British boxer to re-enter its rankings after deciding “there was no conclusive evidence that Mr. Benn engaged in intentional or knowing ingestion of Clomiphene”.

Nevertheless, Benn was charged by the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) in April 2023 and provisionally suspended. Three months later, a year on from his initial positive test, the National Anti-Doping Panel ruled in Benn’s favour and lifted the ban. The saga continues to rumble on, however, with UKAD and the BBBofC appealing that verdict. The latter’s refusal to license Benn with the process still ongoing made up some of the background noise as a proposed fight with Eubank failed to come to fruition for the second time last month.

“I will continue to fight and continue to shout from the rooftops and protest my innocence because I am,” Benn said. “Some will always believe me and some won’t. I’ve become accepting of that.”

Benn returned to action against Rodolfo Orozco in Orlando in September, winning a 10-round decision over an opponent who himself failed a doping test afterward. Now, on the day he had hoped to meet Eubank at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, he will take on Dobson (16-0, 9 KOs) in a 12-round contest staged during the afternoon at The Cosmopolitan.

The Benn camp hopes that the UKAD and BBBofC appeal will conclude within the next two months. For the fighter, it’s about more than that. As Benn points out, if he had simply accepted a backdated two-year ban at the time, it would be nearing completion. It’s hardy as if his career has kicked on in the meantime, even if his profile, notoriety and potential box-office pulling power have increased due to the controversy.

“I’m willing to spend every last penny I have to fight my innocence,” he said. “Every penny I have. That’s how much this means to me. If my tests, my evidence and my results have to be the measuring stick for fighters coming then so be it. Use my evidence because I can’t let all the money I’ve spent on this case go to waste.”

MORE: Why Terence Crawford is pound-for-pound No. 1 and not Naoya Inoue

As outlined in an interview with The Times last June, the team of scientists and experts Benn brought on board contested that his urine sample contained clomiphene metabolites consistent with food contamination rather than oral ingestion of the drug.

“Without a question of doubt we’ve proved it’s contamination, 100%,” said Dr Mohammed Enayat, a London-trained GP and expert in functional and personalised medicine.

Somewhat frustratingly, this dossier — a mere 33 pages according to Benn and not the hefty 270 that was widely reported — is yet to be seen in a public setting.

“They don’t want to sit down and look at the evidence,” the boxer said. “We’ve asked on multiple occasions to UKAD and the Board and they’ve expressed zero interest in the evidence.

“You say publish the report. People won’t get it. The average person wants it: ‘Let’s just see the dossier’. When the time is right, the evidence will be submitted and watch the laws change around testing for clomiphene, because they will change.”

This, Benn stated repeatedly, is his wider purpose. He fears athletes are being caught out unknowingly on contamination grounds when it comes to clomiphene, which is used in some countries to increase the egg production of hens. Such use is not permitted in the UK, although his home country does increasingly import eggs for domestic sale.

Heavyweight Robert Helenius tested positive for the substance after his defeat to Anthony Joshua in August, as did Alberto Puello ahead of his proposed WBA super lightweight defence against Rolly Romero. 

Benn also referenced two unnamed cyclists he claimed had failed tests for clomiphene since his positive. Records of the 14 individuals banned by the UCI during that timeframe do not back this up. However, Miguel Angel Lopez and Joni Brandao were suspended after testing positive for menotropin, which is also a fertility drug.

“It’s been almost two years. If I was guilty… you know me, I’m not an idiot,” Benn continued. “Okay, no problem, let me sit quietly and wait two years. Because I have spent an absolute fortune on this over the past two years. 

“Would I have gone, ‘You know what, I accidentally took this, I accidentally took that’? I couldn’t even say that. I strongly believe that my evidence — and I pray it is in five or 10 years’ time — is the measuring stick, because not everybody has the resources.”

For all his missionary zeal about bringing reform within the testing system, Benn is in a reflective mood over this grim chapter. His initial war footing, from vocally hitting back at the BBBofC and critics perceived and otherwise to an ill-advised chat show appearance with Piers Morgan, is a source of regret.

Conor Benn

(Melina Pizano/Matchroom Boxing)

“It was like I was grieving. It was really naive of me because I just thought everyone in the boxing community, everyone who knows me would be just like, ‘Something’s off here, what’s gone on here?’,” he recalled.

“Instead it’s like, ‘He’s a witch! Burn him, burn him!’ I was just like, ‘Wow… alright, then f*** you lot then! You haven’t even given me the benefit of the doubt’. 

“That naivety made me vulnerable and I felt like it was fight or flight. Obviously, I’m a fighter and I chose to go about this completely the wrong way. 

“I said a lot of things I regret. My attitude towards it was wrong and I understand. But you have to go through it to learn. I’ve had to go through that to realise a lot. 

“For slagging everyone else off, I apologise; the Board, I apologise. I don’t want no conflict. I just want this to finish.”

At the height of his anxiety over the whole ordeal and shame over potential damage to his family’s proud boxing name, Benn said he aborted trips to the local supermarket to pick up groceries.

WATCH: Benn vs. Dobson live on DAZN

Now he will step out at the top of the bill in Las Vegas. Admittedly not in the illustrious company he wants to belong to, having been linked to the likes of Devin Haney, Ismael Barrios and Jaron Ennis. The hope is that such fights follow in good time, with 2024 bringing clarity and focus rather than yet more scattergun noise.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t,” he said when asked whether it was hard to mentally adjust for Dobson after a 60,000-capacity stadium blockbuster against Eubank was touted. 

“It’s not even about Eubank, forget him. It’s anyone. It’s the Ennises, the Devin Haneys, it’s the Barrioses. When you’re talking about those levels of fights, I’m ready.

“It’s frustrating, but what can I do? I leave it to my team to make the big fights and that’s on them. I focus on doing what I can. I make sure I deliver every single time, nine or 10 times out of 10 I deliver and do what I say I’m going to do. I make sure that I make it look easy and make the opponents look like what they are.

“Is it a little bit of a step back? Yes. Am I excited to be out? Yes. But my goal is to make these fighters look like the fighters they are. It might be challenging getting up at three or four in the morning training for a guy like this, but he’s still in the way of those fights happening.”

If Dobson proves to be Benn’s biggest obstacle of a turbulent couple of years, he’ll have put in some performance.

***Conor Benn will return to action in back-to-back American fights at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas against Peter Dobson on Saturday, February 3. The fight will air live worldwide on DAZN – with Benn headlining early afternoon in Las Vegas for prime time viewing in the UK.***

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