LONDON (Reuters) – Former world boxing champion Nigel Benn has denied being turned down for a licence to make a comeback at the age of 55 and said on Wednesday he welcomed further medical tests to prove his fitness to fight.
The Briton, who last fought in 1996, is coming out of retirement for a Nov. 23 fight in Birmingham against Cameroon-born Australian Sakio Bika, a 40-year-old ex-world champion.
The former WBC super-middleweight champion confirmed he had made a formal application to the British & Irish Boxing Association (BIBA) for a licence.
“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.”
The Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) general secretary Robert Smith last month as saying Benn had asked them about a licence.
“He was told that we would not consider it, given his age and how long he has been away from the sport. We will not be licensing this event, it will not be under our jurisdiction,” he said then.
Benn acknowledged the risks and need to satisfy medical experts, but said also that he felt discriminated against because of his age.
“I’ve welcomed the requirements of BIBA to clearly establish that I am ‘fit to box’,” he said. “I have undergone numerous and regular medical investigations to confirm this, including periodic MRI brain scans.”
Benn said he would have further tests in the next few weeks, including another brain scan, “to provide clear clarification of my state of health” and there would be extra safety measures at the fight.
He has said he wants to fight again for ‘closure’, and personal peace of mind, rather than any financial reasons.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)