Spike O'Sullivan: Time to charge boxing cheats with attempted murder

I’ve fought 36 times as a pro. Five of them were likely against fighters who doped, maybe seven. That’s 20 per cent of my fighting life, in there against guys who were juicing
Spike O'Sullivan: Time to charge boxing cheats with attempted murder

DARK WEEK: Chris Eubank Jr, Conor Benn and Eddie Hearn did boxing few favours with their reaction to Benn's positive test this week. Pic: PA Wire

There are too many cheats in boxing. The only way to finally start getting rid of them is for any fighter found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs to be charged with attempted murder.

Listen to me, I’m dead serious. I’m sick of it. It’s an absolute heartbreaker for the rest of us, for the clean lads bursting our bollocks every day.

I’ve fought 36 times in my professional career. I’m pretty sure five of them were against fighters who doped, maybe as many as seven. That’s 20 per cent of my fighting life, in there against guys who were juicing.

How many boxers have we seen die in a ring or on his way out of it? How many more have been left brain damaged? And still there are guys out there getting pumped with stuff that is going to put their opponent at risk of all of the above. It’s criminal, which is why we need criminal charges. Call it what it is. Not just cheating — attempted murder. Then prosecute it as such.

I don’t want to be here in the weekend paper tearing down my own sport. I actually had a lovely column written nice and early this week. It was about what the names Benn and Eubank meant to Irish sports fans of a certain age and I was remembering walking to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on that magical night in 1995 with my father and three of my brothers to see Eubank Snr and Steve Collins and me being the only Irishman in the place roaring for Eubank.

But what do the names Benn and Eubank mean to fans and casual viewers after the past 72 hours? They mean boxing back in the dock, back in the gutter. A mortifying mess that only showed the world how grubby and money-hungry those at the centre of some of the biggest fight nights are. It showed the world that words don’t matter and actions don’t matter either. Only money matters.

Even after a positive test and the fight being prohibited by the British Boxing Board of Control (who should be applauded), Eddie Hearn was doing everything he could to make sure it went ahead. Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr. both wanted to plough ahead. Benn’s B sample may well come back negative. Wouldn’t surprise me at all. He’s still protesting his innocence. That doesn’t surprise me either. In this entire s***show, the only surprise should be that anyone is surprised at all.

Here’s how little words and actions mattered. A couple of quotes from the archives for ye… “I can’t believe it. Biggest fight of your career and you test positive for a banned substance. It baffles me.” Who said it? Conor Benn.

“What is the point in signing up for drug testing if, when you fail, everyone just goes ‘oh don’t worry about it?’” Who said it? Eddie Hearn.

This was a fight built on family connections and big name recognition. But there have been plenty of names who got popped before Benn. Tyson Fury and Canelo Alvarez are the biggest names in the game — both done for positive tests. There are dozens more.

It upsets me so much because so many of these guys are rich and famous and successful, and maybe at least some of that is on the back of cheating. I’m nothing special but I’m a hard bloody worker, I mean I’ve dedicated my life to it. I’m honest and clean and probably being left at a disadvantage because of that. A heartbreaker.

Both the Eubank and Benn families know all too well how badly things can go in the ring too. Michael Watson and Gerald McClellan had their lives changed forever by Eubank Sr and Nigel Benn. The younger Eubank did permanent damage to Nick Blackwell just a few years ago. I had met Nick and even roomed with him in Dublin, such a genuine, sound fella. 

Five years ago in Canada I hurt a guy called Antoine Douglas. But I want to tell ye something — I can live with that. Here’s why: we were living in my mother-in-law’s place at the time. I remember building a bunk bed for my kids and we were sleeping in there in the same cramped box room.

It was a December fight and I was up in the dark mornings doing sprints on Matthew Hill in Cork. There’s a green post up there on the side of the hill and I’d hang out of the pole doing knee lifts in the pitch black. The pole would be absolutely freezing on my hands but it was all part of it.

Douglas had been preparing somewhere nice and warm and I remember getting to Canada, looking across the ring at him and thinking, ‘you weren’t out in the dark running up Matthew Hill and hanging out of the pole like a lunatic’. I knew I’d put in the work and I knew I had to do something for my family. That’s what was coursing through my veins. Not shite from a syringe.

So yeah, Antoine Douglas is still on my mind from time to time. He never fought again. But I know I went in there clean as a whistle and hungrier than ever. If I’d been taking drugs, how could I ever have a clean conscience — bringing a fella’s career to an end because of what you’re pumping into your body?

That’s the difference between the clean ones and the dirty ones I suppose. And it’s why it’s time to get rid of them.

HAVE GLOVES, WILL TRAVEL: Tim Tszyu punches Dennis Hogan (left) during the WBO Global Super Welterweight title fight between Tim Tszyu and Dennis Hogan at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on March 31, 2021 in Newcastle, Australia. Pic: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
HAVE GLOVES, WILL TRAVEL: Tim Tszyu punches Dennis Hogan (left) during the WBO Global Super Welterweight title fight between Tim Tszyu and Dennis Hogan at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on March 31, 2021 in Newcastle, Australia. Pic: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Hogan and Eggington do battle — and I better get the winner

WHILE the boxing world on this side of the equator was obsessing over two guys who seemed determined to drag the sport into the gutter, down in Australia there were two good men at work.

Our own Dennis Hogan and England’s Sam Eggington will meet in New South Wales on Saturday with Eggington’s IBO Superwelterweight world title on the line. And I don’t just want the winner — I better bloody get him.

People think I only use social media for bursting Niall Kennedy’s balls and taking the mick out of Ray Moylette. But I use it for business too.

A few weeks back I called out both Dennis and Sam and said I wanted to fight whoever came out on top. It wasn’t a flyer or a stunt or a joke. I was deadly serious and to be fair to Dennis especially, it was taken seriously. From what I’ve heard back, I’m starting to feel good that both camps will be true to their word (or at least their hints) and put that belt up for grabs with me on the other side of the ring next time.

Imagine me against Dennis? That would be something truly historic — two Irishmen fighting one another for a world title. I’ve had a wee look back through the history books and don’t think it’s ever happened before.

I couldn’t have more respect for Dennis, even though he’s from Kildare. He’s gone around the world for a shortcut and carved out a brilliant career for himself, mostly fighting out of Australia but he’s boxed in the States, Mexico and Germany too. I respect the hell out of that attitude.

I sparred with Dennis ahead of that fight in Germany a few years ago and he’s a very good boxer with a great coach. I was heavier than him at the time and felt I had the measure of him, I pulled a few punches because he had a big fight coming up.

I’ve met Sam before and he’s a really great lad too. He’s had an unbelievable career really. Considering how it started out, he would never have been expected to become what he has become, which is a world champion. He’s 28 and only turned pro in 2012 but has fought 39 times. That’s some serious road.

The fight will be around Saturday lunchtime our time and could be a cracker. I do think the location could be a double-pronged factor for Eggington. Because Dennis’s management team won the purse bid and brought the fight down to Australia, Eggington has a big adjustment to make with the travel and environment.

When you are making those kinds of journeys you want your people with you. Sam has had Jon Pegg in his corner from day one, like myself and Packie. But I understand that Jon doesn’t fly and Australia is a fair bit of a swim so Jon won’t be in his corner on Saturday. That could be big. I get the feeling that Sam is avoiding me and, if he wins, wouldn’t fancy fighting me next. Maybe that decision could be taken out of his hands.

Ultimately, it’s a very hard one to call. I think Dennis has been in there with better opponents and I think he will win on points. Denis will fight me next because I’m sure he’s a man of his word.

Good luck to both lads. I’ll be seeing one of ye very soon.

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