Abu Dhabi back in play for grudge match between Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr

Reports in UK suggest fight could take place in UAE capital on December 23

Chris Eubank Jr, left, and Conor Benn could yet face off in Abu Dhabi. PA
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The all-British grudge match between Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr could finally take place in Abu Dhabi later this year, according to reports.

Promoters Matchroom have previously stated their desire to hold the bout in the UK, with the Principality Stadium in Cardiff their preferred venue.

However, with Benn still unable to box in the UK because of an unresolved doping case, the Daily Mail reported that a deal has been lined up to bring the fight to Abu Dhabi on December 23.

The British rivals, both sons of famous boxers, were originally scheduled to fight at London's O2 Arena in October 2022 but the bout was cancelled 24 hours beforehand after it was discovered that Benn had tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug clomifene.

The event had gained significant public interest because of a bitter feud between their fathers that had produced two classic fights in the 1990s.

It later emerged that Benn had in fact failed two separate VADA-administered tests, but the 27-year-old has always maintained his innocence.

In July, a ruling made by the National Anti-Doping Panel saw his suspension lifted but UK Anti Doping and the British Boxing Board of Control lodged an appeal and Benn remains unlicensed and unable to fight in a UK ring.

A previous attempt to bring the fight to Abu Dhabi in September was shelved because of the ongoing uncertainty over Benn's situation.

Since then, the 34-year-old Eubank Jr posted an impressive 10th-round stoppage victory in a rematch with Liam Smith, while Benn made a low-key return to the ring with a points victory over the unknown Mexican Rodolfo Orozco in Florida last month.

Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn this week reiterated his determination to make the fight, and with Benn's case still no closer to being resolved, that would appear to make Abu Dhabi a front-runner for hosting duties.

"We have every intention to make it happen,' Hearn told the BBC. "Our side with Conor Benn and the side of Kalle Sauerland and Chris Eubank want to move forward and make that fight.

"We feel that because of the situation with Conor Benn's suspension being lifted and winning that case that he should be allowed and able to fight in the UK.

"We're speaking to the British Boxing Board of Control. We think legally there's no reason why he shouldn't be allowed to fight in the UK but obviously it's their decision."

Hearn added that should the British board prevent Benn fighting domestically then the show would be taken abroad and could even feature heavyweight Anthony Joshua on the bill.

"If we are not allowed to do that, we will hold the fight internationally but it's our preference of course to bring that big fight to Britain.

"We also have a rather large heavyweight called Anthony Joshua who's saying, 'if I'm not fighting Deontay Wilder in January, I would quite like to fight in December as well'. So we're trying to work it all out but, quite frankly, I think it's very unlikely that we don't have a show on 23 December."

Matchroom last year signed a deal with the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism to stage shows in the UAE capital, the first of which saw WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol defeat Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez at the Etihad Arena last November.

Updated: October 11, 2023, 1:46 PM