Boxing News at Five: Benn says he was never refused a licence to fight, Witherspoon reckons Usyk will discover heavyweight is a “totally different game”

A returning Nigel Benn has hit back at claims he was refused a licence by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) ahead of a scheduled comeback fight on November 23.

It had been widely reported the former two-weight world champion had been denied a licence when attempting to launch the comeback and that this was the reason he then decided to pursue one with the British and Irish Boxing Association (BIBA).

However, 55-year-old Benn insists this is not the case and welcomes further medical tests to prove he is fit to fight.

“I refute the claims that I re-applied for a licence with any other accredited sanctioning body (as has been stated in the press),” he said in a statement. “Therefore, I have not been refused a licence as alleged.

“I’ve welcomed the requirements of BIBA to clearly establish that I am ‘fit to box’. I have undergone numerous and regular medical investigations to confirm this, including periodic MRI brain scans.”

Tests or no tests, Benn’s last fight was back in 1996 and his next one, on November 23, sees him oppose Sakio Bika, a 40-year-old former WBC super-middleweight champion who was active as recently as 2017.

The mere fact Benn is back in a boxing ring is a risk, one few are willing to condone. But the choice of Bika as an opponent, someone whose company few fighters have enjoyed, is perhaps an even greater concern.

Bika is a hard man

After it was announced yesterday that Tyrone Spong’s VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency) urine test had returned some adverse findings, the search was on to find a suitable heavyweight opponent for former world cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk to fight this Saturday (October 12) in Chicago.

The search was a quick one, with promoter Eddie Hearn assuring fans he had a replacement on standby, and ended with Chazz Witherspoon, second cousin of Tim, stepping forward.

Witherspoon, 38-3 (29), is being sold on the fact he is unbeaten in five years but it’s worth noting he didn’t box at all in 2017 and boxed only once in 2018. Not only that, if you glance at the names of the eight opponents he faced during those eight years you will do well to recognise one.

Still, he is related to Tim Witherspoon, a former two-time heavyweight champion, so has a famous, recognisable surname at least.

“I can’t wait to face Usyk in Chicago,” said Chazz, now 38. “I have been in training ready for a big fight, and it doesn’t get bigger than this. Oleksandr is stepping up to heavyweight and he’s going to find out that it’s a totally different game.

“I’ve won my last eight fights and I really feel that I’ve been waiting in the wings for a huge opportunity like this and I am going to put every ounce of myself into the fight on this massive stage.”

The best you can say about Usyk vs. Witherspoon is this: with just days to go until fight night, it could have been a whole lot worse.

Oleksandr Usyk
Usyk waits for heavyweight move (Action Images/Reuters/Andrew Couldridge)

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