CONOR BENN could make his boxing return in an Abu Dhabi spectacular against ring legend Manny Pacquiao.
The 26-year-old welterweight had his October catchweight clash at the O2 with Chris Eubank Jr cancelled by the British Boxing Board of Control after traces of the banned substance clomifene was found in two of his VADA samples.
The son of British legend Nigel insists he is close to clearing his name with the WBC – who decided against taking any action against the July and September red flags.
But he has ripped up his BBBofC licence – after passing two UKAD tests in the build-up and being stunned that the Board chose to overlook their results and investigate those from an agency they do not usually recognise – so is set to fight abroad.
Eubank Jr appeared to rush into Saturday night’s high-risk-low-reward middleweight war with Liam Smith, assuming the Benn fight would always be there, whatever the result.
But the violent fourth-round stoppage Smith inflicted on Eubank Jr – and a mega-money offer from the Middle East – could offer Benn a very different route back into the sport, against the 44-year-old former eight-weight champion.
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Iconic Filipino PacMan put his political career on hold and followed old rival Floyd Mayweather onto the exhibition circuit in December, with an unlicensed six-rounder in South Korea against celebrity boxing debutant DK Yoo.
The magnificent southpaw has 72 real fights on his record and world titles from flyweight up to super-welterweight.
And he still took younger and bigger welterweight Yordenis Ugas the distance when they met in Pacquiao’s last serious bout, in an August 2021 world title clash he lost on points.
By contrast, Benn is just 21-0, 18 years younger and yet to win a domestic or world title.
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But Benn’s promoter Eddie Hearn announced a mega-money partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism last year.
And he is eager to host major crossover events that appeal to different generations as well as demographics.
SunSport understands Benn remains very open to the Eubank Jr clash taking place.
But he believes his potential exoneration with the WBC – and Eubank Jr’s need to rebuild – puts him back in a position of power way above his rival.
In the build-up to the Smith defeat – that left Jr with what looked like a broken cheekbone – Eubank insisted the Benn battle would be rearranged but the weight category and purse percentages swapping into his favour.
But Benn, who has had almost four months to explore alternative career plans while fighting his case, has never been under a ban and now feels like he has bigger and better options to return with.
Hearn, who shows his fights on the streaming app DAZN, said: “ We’re waiting on a decision from the WBC.
“The WBC confirmed that Conor Benn is cleared to fight. There’s still an ongoing process with the WBC. We just want that decision because Conor Benn can fight now.
“He’s going to fight soon but publicly, we want him to be cleared.
“We don’t want this to be hanging over him but also his career has to resume at some point.
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“So, we’re looking at opponents for Conor Benn for late Spring and he still wants that Eubank fight, Manny Pacquiao.
“Hopefully, we’ll get that decision soon, but he’s confirmed that he’s cleared to fight. We’d like that public announcement regarding the findings.”
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