FIVE days after Eddie Hearn was photographed on a train with a notepad in front of him containing the key contests from Matchroom’s upcoming Fight Camp, the promoter – in conjunction with new broadcast partner DAZN – this week confirmed what most of us already knew as a consequence of that photo going viral.
On Saturday July 31, the first of three cards to be staged at ‘Matchroom Square Garden’, welterweight starlet Conor Benn continues his education against reliable Mexican gatekeeper, Adrian Granados. The 31-year-old is perhaps best known for losing a split decision over 10 rounds to Adrien Broner in 2017 yet he’s also gone 12 with Shawn Porter, the full 10 with Robert Easter Jnr and – in his only inside schedule defeat – was knocked out in seven rounds by Danny Garcia.
“The way I’m punching I expect to get him out of there inside six rounds,” Benn said between slurps of ice cream on a scorching media day at the Matchroom HQ grounds in Brentwood. “Why shouldn’t I be confident? People always ask me why I’m so confident. But there would be something seriously wrong if I wasn’t this confident after all the work I put in. I might be eating an ice cream right now but, don’t worry about that, I’ll do a five-mile run after this.”
Eddie Hearn indicated that this is the first of a ‘five-fight plan’ to get Benn challenging for a major sanctioning body title.
The best matched fight of the card sees Chris Billam-Smith challenge Tommy McCarthy for the European cruiserweight title. “I don’t look at like he’s the hardest fight out there because he’s the European champion,” Billam-Smith told Boxing News. “He’s skilful and we won’t underestimate him. But he’s got a tough fight coming up against me.
“I really believe I can become a world champion in the future. If [gym-mate] Lawrence [Okolie], who I’ve been sparring with, unifies the titles and then moves up to heavyweight I want to be in a position to challenge for one of the vacant belts.”
Another of Billam-Smith’s stablemates from the McGuigan Gym, super-welterweight Anthony Fowler, gets a test of sorts against the war-torn Roberto Garcia while Jack Cullen encounters Avni Yildirim over 10 super-middleweight rounds. Sandy Ryan makes her debut against Kirstie Bavington while Shannon Courtenay and Campbell Hatton are set to appear against opponents to be decided.
The vacant IBF featherweight belt is the star prize in week two as Kid Galahad fights Jazza Dickens in a rematch of their 2013 encounter on August 7. Galahad spent most of the afternoon enjoying the sun in just his shorts while Dickens – who was stopped in 10 rounds in their first encounter – made the brave decision to wear a full suit. At welterweight, Florian Marku will fight Maxim Prodan over 10 rounds, heavyweight Alen Babic goes in with Mark Bennett while Ebanie Bridges returns to fight Bec Connolly. Heavyweight Johnny Fisher will be expected to defeat Josh Sandland while there should also be victories for Fabio Wardley, Ellie Scotney and Aqib Fiaz.
There is a tasty light-heavyweight clash headlining the third and final open air show on August 14 as Joshua Buatsi meets Ricards Bolotniks over 12 rounds. Micheal McKinson goes in with Poland’s tough but limited Przemyslaw Ronowski and New Jersey’s promising featherweight Raymond Ford steps up against Reece Bellotti. Also set to appear against yet-to-be confirmed rivals are Natasha Jonas, Commonwealth middleweight boss Felix Cash, gifted bantamweight Kash Farooq and super-bantamweight prospect, Ivan “Hopey” Price.
There will be a limited amount of tickets available for each card, costing an eye-watering £750 each. That price includes champagne and local transport to the venue and will not be affected by the government’s postponement of fully easing lockdown restrictions. That price point is sure to annoy some but the low cost of £1.99 per month remains for those content to watch via DAZN at home.