Conor Benn has the last name, but there have still been reasonable skeptics about his quality in the ring. Tonight in London, however, the 24-year-old second generation fighter looked terrific for 10 rounds, widely out-pointing Germany’s Sebastian Formella.
Benn (17-0, 11 KO) found himself in with a tough veteran he couldn’t quite put away, one who never gave up on the fight despite being obviously down big on the cards, and got some valuable rounds. Benn, 24, also never lost focus, showed some depth we haven’t seen before, and made himself look like a genuine, very serious welterweight prospect.
Scores were 99-92, 99-91, and 100-91 for Benn. Bad Left Hook had it 99-91 for Benn, as well. The British fighter did some damage on Formella (22-2, 10 KO), and came away with some real respect for his opponent’s toughness.
“I’ve been training hard as you can tell. Every time I get better,” Benn said. “I hit him with a straight 1-2 in round nine, and I thought, ‘This geezer’s tough.’ I’m not gonna blow everyone out, I’ll wear them down, which is exactly what I’ve done tonight.”
“This was a big perforamnce from Conor Benn. It’s now time to move in 2021 through some big steps,” promoter Eddie Hearn said.
As for those steps, Benn says he’s laser focused on getting a fight with fellow British prospect Josh Kelly.
“That’s the only fight I’m interested in,” Benn said. “The only big domestic I want is Kelly. People saying I’m scared and all that, stop talking rubbish. Do I look like a scared fighter? Nah. They should have taken their chance when they could, because I’m on the up.”
Hearn noted that Kelly will be facing European champ David Avanesyan in January, and that if Kelly gets through that, and Benn wins one more fight, a Benn-Kelly bout for summer 2021 could be a big one.
Fabio Wardley TKO-2 Richard Lartey
This win doesn’t mean the 25-year-old Wardley is ready for Anthony Joshua or anything, but it does cement him as a heavyweight prospect to keep an eye on from here, no question. Lartey (14-4, 11 KO) gave Daniel Dubois a little scrap for four rounds before Dubois, a top tier prospect, stopped him in 2019, and he went a full 10 with Nathan Gorman about six weeks ago.
Here, Lartey was looking like a possible good test for the 25-year-old Wardley (10-0, 9 KO), who has no amateur experience, really a project under manager Dillian Whyte and Matchroom as promoter, but then he shook Lartey with a jab and finished him off with a left hook and a right hand around the other side of the guard. Lartey went down hard and was done there, a really impressive show of raw power from Wardley, and he also set it up nicely, it wasn’t just that he’s strong. He’s a fighter learning on the job and improving at a nice clip.
“I’m really happy with the finish. I think that finish answered a few questions,” Wardley said after the fight. “I think that answered if I have single-punch power and if I can hang with big boys, which I can. Once I sit down and get a big shot, I can get you out.”
“I’m just happy to be where I am. I’m moving at a good pace. 10 fights in now, decent opposition. Richard Lartey was a good challenge. I passed that pretty easily. But I don’t want to get too carried away with myself. I still need to build, there’s still things I need to learn. I haven’t got into the second half of a fight, I haven’t got into a real war.”
“I think he’s moving at a great pace. That British title is going to free up, and I think he should be fighting for that,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “Probably one more fight, he’ll box on the (Povetkin-Whyte 2 card on Jan. 30), and then whoever the Board puts forward (for a British title fight). He’s young, exciting, and he punches very hard.”
The British title, for what it’s worth, will be contested on Nov. 28, when Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce fight for the British, Commonwealth, and European titles, and Hearn is right that the British title could be vacated after that as the winner looks to get on to bigger things and not sit at domestic level any longer.
Alen Babic TKO-3 Tom Little
Little seemed to have a plan here, to rope-a-dope a bit and take this to the later rounds of the scheduled eight, but it just didn’t happen. Babic (6-0, 6 KO) was simply too ferocious, had too much gas tank, and just battered Little (10-9, 3 KO) in the second round, then dropped him twice in the third for the stoppage.
Babic, 30, has become a fan favorite, and for good reason. He’s non-stop action, fearless, pure entertainment. Yes, there are still a lot of questions to answer about him even possibly being a serious contender, several more levels to go, but this is a fun ride as a fan if nothing else. And he’s a likable sort, too, willing to fight all the time, willing to face anyone offered, and wants real challenges if and when he can get them.
Babic gave Little, 33, credit for his toughness, and says he thinks he broke a couple of knuckles on Little’s head. Promoter Eddie Hearn expects Babic to fight again on the Povetkin-Whyte 2 card, which is tentatively slated for Jan. 30.
Jez Smith PTS-6 Ben Ridings
Ridings was ostensibly the prospect here, but he got a boxing lesson from Jez Smith in a step-up bout. Smith (12-2-1, 5 KO) won on a referee’s score of 60-54, which was totally fair. BLH gave Ridings (3-1, 0 KO) the fifth round by a hair, but that meant a 59-55 score for us. The 26-yerar-old Smith bossed this fight and was simply the better boxer, which was clear even early on. Ridings was never ahead in this fight, never looking like the better man.
The 22-year-old Ridings is a natural middleweight, this had a 166-pound catch or something, they both weighed in under that. But that shouldn’t be an issue for Ridings in theory, as Smith has fought the bulk of his career as a welterweight.
Good win for Smith, after two straight stoppage losses to Samuel Antwi and Caoimhin Agyarko in Feb. 2019 and July 2020, where he was dropped a total of seven times between the two bouts. Setback for Ridings, obviously, Smith just far too much for him after three wins against true journeymen opponents in 2018-19.
Liam Davies RTD-6 Sean Cairns
Was a step up for the 24-year-old Davies, not that he wasn’t still a clear favorite. Didn’t turn out to be a competitive fight at all, as Davies (8-0, 3 KO) totally dominated here, winning the vacant English bantamweight title. Davies had his way from the start here, won all six rounds clearly, beat Cairns (7-3, 1 KO) up throughout the fight, had him hurt a few times, did visible damage — it was one-sided all the way. Cairns was still game and trying, but it was pretty clear during the fifth and sixth rounds that he had no hope left. He was really never in this fight.
Solid performance for Davies, and given how thin the division is domestically, this is a decent statement win for where he is in his career. Is there world level in his future? Probably not, in all honesty. Is he ready for a Lee McGregor, Cash Farooq, Paul Butler type? Probably would be best to have another fight or two. But someone like Scott Allan or Gary Rae or Ryan Walker or Kyle Williams next would be a useful step.