Conor Benn, a Lightning Rod for Controversy, Returns to the Ring on Saturday


By Arne K. Lang

In a surprise announcement, Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn has announced that Conor Benn will return to the ring this Saturday on the undercard of his promotion at the Caribe Royal in Orlando, Florida. Benn (21-0, 14 KOs) is matched against Mexico’s Rodolfo Orozco who is 32-3-3 (24) and has never been stopped. The match is slated for 10 rounds at 154 pounds and will mark the first test for both fighters outside their native countries.

The main event on the Matchroom card is a 12-round contest in the super lightweight division between Richardson Hitchins (16-0, 7 KOs) and Jose Zepeda (37-3, 28 KOs). Hitchins, born in Brooklyn, represented his parents’ homeland of Haiti in the 2016 Rio Olympics where he lost his opening round match to amateur nemesis Gary Antuanne Russell. Zepeda, a 34-year-old Mexican-American southpaw, is best remembered for his 2020 rumble with Ivan Baranchyk, the runaway pick for the Fight of the Year. The chief supporting bout pits England’s Sandy Ryan against Chicago’s Jessica McCaskill with the WBA, WBC, and IBF female welterweight belts on the line. The show will be live-streamed on DAZN.

Conor Benn last fought in April of last year when he TKOed South African veteran Chris Van Heerden in the second round. He was slated to return to the ring on Oct. 8, 2022 against Chris Eubank Jr, but -- as is common knowledge – that bout fell to pieces when it came out that Benn had tested positive for a banned substance identified as Clomifene, a fertility drug in women that boosts testosterone in men. Making things worse for Benn, it came out that he had tested positive on VADA-administered tests on two separate occasions spaced several weeks apart. Try as they may, promoter Eddie Hearn and his partner Kelle Sauerland were unable to sway the British Boxing Board of Control into setting aside their edict that prevented the fight from going forward; the authorities wouldn't budge.

As noted in a story that ran on this website, the Benn-Eubank Jr implosion was a particularly infernal shipwreck. The plug wasn’t pulled until two days before the fight, by which time all 20,000 seats at London’s O2 Arena had reportedly been sold.

Conor Benn predictably insisted that he was innocent, calling it a witch-hunt. The World Boxing Council subsequently lifted its suspension of Benn, citing a report in a medical journal that showed that Clomifene could appear in one’s system via an excessive consumption of eggs. With his father Nigel, a former two-division world champion at his side, Conor argued his case on a popular British TV talk show and persuaded many to see him as a sympathetic figure, the victim of a flawed testing process.

Interest in a Benn-Eubank Jr fight dissipated when Eubank was knocked out by Liam Smith, but was then rekindled when Eubank won the rematch in a dominant fashion. Various news reports say that Hearn has begun preliminary negotiations to resurrect the fight with his eye on a date in December.

As noted by several prominent fight writers, notably Dan Rafael, Conor Benn hasn’t yet been cleared to resume his career in the UK. An independent National Anti-Doping Panel gave him the green light, but the BBBofC is appealing that decision. Promoter Frank Warren, Eddie Hearn’s chief rival, has ventured the opinion that Team Benn is disrespecting the sport by returning to the ring before the process has run its course. In rebuttal, Eddie Hearn says that the Benn-Orozco fight has the blessing of the (USA) Association of Boxing Commissioners which made this determination after consulting with the BBBofC.
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