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The step up for Conor Benn

Conor Benn
Mark Robinson/Matchroom
Conor Benn must prove himself against Sebastian Formella, writes John Dennen

THIS Saturday (November 21) was meant to see Dillian Whyte’s quickly-made rematch with Alexander Povetkin. But with the latter contracting coronavirus that contest will have to be put back till next year. The show however does go on. The bill moves off pay-per-view, which is welcome, and Conor Benn steps up as the main event.

The son of British legend Nigel Benn also has what should prove a real fight on his hands. He takes on Germany’s 22-1 (10) Sebastian Formella over a scheduled 10 rounds. The first and only defeat of Formella’s career came in August, against former WBC welterweight world champion Shawn Porter in Los Angeles. Formella had been the full 12 rounds three times before but deserves full credit for going the distance with Porter, a strong, rugged, world class welterweight. It is a mark of Formella’s own toughness and grit to have lasted the course.

He promises to make it a hard night for Benn. Conor remains a work in progress. He has power in his punches and has amply demonstrated heart already in his career. He’s had to do so to preserve his unbeaten record. The 24-year-old has flaws. His gloves drift low, leaving holes in his defence. Going on the back foot he can leave himself open to being outboxed. But he is learning and improving.

Formella has been markedly more active in recent months. He’s managed to fight twice in 2020 already, 24 rounds in total. Benn hasn’t boxed since October of last year. But he has been training throughout. When pro gyms were closed in the first lockdown, he was fortunate enough to have a boxing legend, his own father, to train with. Since then he’s been at work in Tony Sims’ gym with a quality stable of fighters.

“I’ve tried to keep myself busy and active so I don’t go mad. Some people have found this is a time to relax, reflect,” he told Boxing News previously. “The way 2020’s gone, who could have thought it would have gone like this? All I can do is keep training and keep active.

“Boxing will pick back up. Boxing will pick back up where it left off in my opinion. Boxing’s one of those things everybody loves to watch. Eddie Hearn’s changed the game of boxing. Boxing will pick back up, I don’t think boxing will change at all. There may be a few guidelines that we will need to abide by for the following year, two years, three years, however long it is. But it will get back to normal, the same as everything else in the world. Everything will start returning.

“Boxing is modern day gladiators. That’s what it is. People love it. It’s an entertaining sport.”

He might not be a complete fighter but Conor Benn has been a crowd pleaser. In this behind closed doors show at Wembley Arena however he will have to perform without his vociferous support. “I don’t really think about it. A fight’s a fight. I’m not going to start putting doubts or fear into my head,” he said. “No one’s with me when I’m doing my hour and a half runs, no one’s with me when I’m doing this. It’s a lonely sport.

“We’ll just all turn up and see what happens.”

Boxing News Conor Benn
Mark Robinson

Expect Formella to pose Benn plenty of problems. But this bout is still a quick turnaround after his gruelling clash with Porter. Benn can battle through some shaky moments to take a hard fought points win.

Formella cautioned, “I am looking forward to this challenge. We will have a good tactic to leave the ring as the winner. We will use the short time optimally.“

“Formella is a world level operator,” Benn stated. “His only loss came against two-time world champion Shawn Porter. I know a win here will make a huge statement on the world scene. I feel the critics have a lot of unanswered questions and now I have the opportunity to answer them in a globally recognised fight.

“From the outside this may look like a big step up but I have prepared extremely hard behind closed doors, working on my craft and climbing the ranks for a fight like this. It’s now time to carry the Benn name back to where it belongs and this will be another step closer to the top. Make no mistake, I’m going into this fight to destroy Formella, I want to win in true Benn style.”

Heavyweights Fabio Wardley and Alen Babic are due to appear on the undercard in separate bouts. Wardley will box Ghana’s Richard Lartey, while Babic goes in with Tom Little. An English bantamweight title fight pits Liam Davies against Sean Cairns. Young prospect Hopey Price will also be on the bill.

The Verdict It might prove to be tough for him but expect Benn to entertain nevertheless.

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