30 years ago last Sunday, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn went to war for the WBO middleweight world championship. It was the first meeting between the pair of bitter British rivals — they would meet again three years later — and animosity, spite, and burning competitiveness underpinned the rounds they were about to share. It was a fight that inspired a generation. Their clash in personality added an ingredient to the already sumptuous broth, with the United Kingdom split in their opinions of both warriors.
Millions of viewers tuned into ITV that November evening in 1990, as the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham witnessed one of the gems in British boxing’s glittering crown. The scars of battle have since healed, but the memories remain.
Three decades on and 120 miles south, Conor Benn, Nigel’s son, embarks on the toughest test of his career to date. 16-0 (11 KO) is the record the Essex fighter has built over four years as a professional, with a reputation growing as one of Britain’s most exciting young fighters. “The Destroyer” is the moniker that Conor goes by, and that’s precisely how he fights – seek and destroy and leave nothing to chance.
How to Watch Benn vs Formella
Date: Saturday, Nov. 21 | Start Time: 2:00 pm ET
Location: The SSE Arena, Wembley - London, England
TV: Sky Sports (UK) | Stream: DAZN (US)
Online Coverage: BadLeftHook.com
The 24-year-old defends a WBA regional title at 147 pounds against Sebastian Formella (22-1, 10 KO) on Saturday night, with the challenger boasting a level of competition above that of Benn by mixing it, albeit unsuccessfully, with Shawn Porter in August. Bookies are finding these two fairly tough to split, with Benn currently priced at 4/9 (-225) to get the W inside the Wembley Arena, with Formella sitting as the 5/2 (+250) dog.
Nigel Benn spoke to mybettingsites.co.uk this week, comparing his celebrated career with that of Conor’s.
“Just because he was dropped by the Frenchman (Cedrick Peynaud) twice, they feel Conor’s a bit chinny. I got dropped by Anthony Logan, by Michael Watson, I got smacked around by Eubanks 30 years ago. But who got voted into the hall of fame, who got voted as the best middleweight by the WBC along with Calzaghe? I got put on my backside but I still went in there and achieved it. And I think Conor can do exactly the same.”
Nigel has no doubt that Conor will go on to achieve world recognition and is reluctant to agree with a growing opinion that he fights ‘wild’ or ‘reckless’. Momentum appears to be building towards a future domestic clash with Josh Kelly.
“Conor’s got that spitefulness in him. By the time he’s 25 he’ll either be world champion or on the right path because that’s when you start getting man strength. He’ll have full man strength by the time he’s 25 and he’ll start banging people out. ... One of the commentators was calling Conor ‘wild,’ Conor is not wild, I was so pissed off. I thought ‘shut up, give him a break.’ There’s nothing wild about Conor, he got caught with a shot but he’s not wild. He’s controlled. Once he’s got the measure of them he sets about them.”
Unlike his father, Conor has added a level of dedication to his routine that would have been questioned in the late-80s. Nigel used to burn the candle at both ends when in camp, but his son is maturing fast. Like father, like son? Perhaps not so much in preparation.
“When I was away I trained hard but then I’d go down to Rah Rahs in Tenerife and have about 10 Depthchargers and some B52s. But I had that army discipline. ... That’s what I love about him. My training was completely different – Conor’s not like me. They used to tell me to get a bit of steak down me. These days it’s have five meals a day and drink three litres of water a day. There wasn’t any science in 1988. It blows my mind how Conor trains, I believe he can achieve more than me because he’s got the right attitude and a fighter’s instinct, you’re born with that.
Nigel is adamant that a Josh Kelly fight will come. The former two-division world champion is eager to stay at arm’s length away from Conor, allowing him to forge his own path in the sport.
“I do see Kelly fighting Conor, and for his sake sooner than later. He’s got good movement but if you can’t knock people out, that’s it. When you fight guys who don’t want to hit back you can do all your flashy stuff, but when you’ve got someone like Conor who can hit back, it’s completely different. That will be a big fight and I can’t wait for that. I’ll be over with my son training alongside Tony Sims.”