Two Ends of the Spectrum
    
Two men, handled ostensibly differently in the public eye by the same employer, seem to be going down very different paths.  Conor Benn and Ohara Davies couldn’t have had more different ends to 2017.  For Benn, a war at York Hall with a debatable points win left fans both in awe of his determination but worried for his future.  The festive plight of Davies is well documented; an ill-advised Tweet referencing The Sun newspaper resulted in his removal from the Matchroom February 3rd show at the O2.

While Benn recovered from the bruises, Sky Sports were building the narrative that Benn is the future of boxing.  Two articles namechecked the 21 year old; one gave him an A- for 2017 and bafflingly told us he “is improving all the time” while also telling us to “forget the last fight”, which was undoubtedly his most reckless to date.  The other article highlighted Benn as ‘One To Watch’ in 2018.  His name was referenced alongside three weight world champion Mikey Garcia, current world champion Dmitry Bivol, blue chip prospect Josh Taylor amongst others. 

Aside from Matchroom cash cow Anthony Joshua, Conor Benn at present is one of the most documented and high profile members of that stable.  In the meantime, Ohara Davies sits and licks his wounds, seemingly working on a strategy to rebrand and repackage himself should the opportunity present itself to be unleashed once again.  That change will come, but it is unclear if that will happen under the Matchroom banner.

The debate around the Davies downfall is for another place and time.  Numerous indiscretions, the current punishment may be terminal or may be the office equivalent of the ‘final written warning’.  One more and you’re out.  The severity of his crime is subjective; those in Liverpool will likely be more outraged than those in Luton.  But to be clear, Davies is not alone in making poor choices of social commentary.  Benn is a member of the club.

February last year Benn openly mocked boxer Robin Deakin, a man who suffers with club foot.  Holding up a photo of a child with the ailment while being filmed, Benn called Deakin “happy feet”.  The outcome was a public apology from Benn.  There was outrage.  One online petition garnered over 2,500 signatures, trying to have the sponsorship of Benn removed.  The debate spreads far and wide.  There aren’t many boxing stories that will make their way onto Mumsnet, but Conor can say he is one of the few to do so.
Benn didn’t appear on a Matchroom show after this incident until July.  Due to these comments?  It’s unknown.  Rumours spread that Benn was injured while on an overseas training camp.  One popular theory was that the injury occurred while sparring, of all people, Ohara Davies. 

Whatever the reason, it hasn’t been made public.  It is the polar opposite of the treatment for Davies, who has been publicly withdrawn from the February 3rd show in his hometown of London due to his comments being “unacceptable and highly offensive to some of our friends”.  It may be safe to assume then that Matchroom do not have friends with club feet.

The adage is that ‘time heals all wounds’.  The absence of Benn from Matchroom shows between his own indiscretion in February and his return in July may have been a cocktail of reasons.  Wrist slapped, injury, learning, training.  Only certain individuals will know and will likely never divulge.   It appears though that during the period, Sky were busy building a hype train of HS2 proportions behind a wall of silence.  He has come back without mention by his employers to his misguided comments, unlike Davies.

His employers, it is worth noting, are not afraid of the controversial.  Eddie Hearn has been involved in some of the most high profile of controversial moments in recent years for British boxing.  In 2010 David Haye outraged many with his comparison of a fight with Audley Harrison to being as “one-sided as gang rape”.  The Promoter?  Eddie Hearn.  The same boxer in 2017 was fined £25,000 for his behaviour before a fight with Tony Bellew with such highlights as labelling Bellew supporters “a bunch of fucking retards” as well as aiming a slap/punch during a press conference.

Hearn may not have been the Promoter nor employer of David Haye, but this behaviour hasn’t stopped him doing business.  The moral compass was able to be shifted.  Old Haye adversary Dereck Chisora threw a table in front of the world’s press in the direction of Dillian Whyte.  The fight went ahead.
In many workplaces, the HR department is King (or Queen, to avoid the PC debate).  They would be the ones to handle such issues as a launched table, the mocking of disabled children, insults to entire cities.  Boxing doesn’t have a HR department.  There is no Union behind Davies.  If there were, there would likely be some interesting conversations taking place, especially if the ultimate outcome is that no place remains for Davies on the Matchroom roster.  Are his actions any worse than Phil Taylor, a man who appears on Matchroom PDC shows at the oche?  In 2001 he was fined for indecently assaulting two women (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-42543/Darts-champion-fined-indecent-assaults.html).  Again, the issue remains subjective.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the career of Ohara Davies.  Is the public condemnation from Eddie Hearn a strategic move to keep a key ticket purchasing city in favour?  Perhaps.  Is it boxing’s equivalent of the final written warning?  Maybe.  It could be that this is the bridge to being released by Matchroom entirely.  Or it could be that in 12 months, Davies is back in the spotlight.  He may be rebranded, less arrogant and more respectful.  Or it may be that he has his wings clipped slightly, but still  be the antagonist.

Of course, were he to be Ohara Davies 2.0 with a slightly more PC approach yet still able to stir the emotions of the boxing public, he would need an adversary.  Given the contempt the people of Liverpool hold for him, it may be wise to move him overseas to Matchroom USA, or keep him southern based for a year or so. 

If you keep him southern based, the adversary is ready made.  The man seemingly thrown under the bus, versus the man that is driving the bus.  Conor Benn.  Despite the narrative we are spun, their respective amateur careers see Benn having more fights than Davies (20-2 and 15-0 respectively).  Of course the standard may have been very different in Benn’s Australian bouts, but the experience is there.  At time of writing, Benn is 11-0 as a professional while Davies is 16-1. Benching Davies for a short period would be the ideal way to allow the younger Benn a chance to catch up in professional experience.

The backstory would write itself.  Only a single weight division apart, the battle lines could be easily drawn.  Good vs evil (it’s fair to say Sky didn’t offer much coverage of the club foot video).  Hype train vs bad boy.  Settling ‘that’ injury.  Road to redemption.  It’s all there. 

The current paths may be very different and their immediate prospects unaligned.  But in 12 months, the two ends of the spectrum may just meet in the middle.