Matchup: Conor Benn vs Chris Algieri
Conor Benn has defied at least some early skeptics, who seemed to expect the second generation fighter to flame out before he started reaching some independent (read: non-sanctioning body) top 10s, including ours recently.
Part of Benn (19-0, 12 KO) hitting that level is down to the fact that welterweight is not quite as impressive a division as Brians Kenny or Custer might shout at you during a PBC broadcast, and it really hasn’t been for a while now. But there is a growing legitimacy to the 25-year-old Benn.
Personally, I’ve always liked Benn. If you really pay attention to him in interviews where he isn’t just hyping a fight, he’s been a humble kid who knows he’s been learning on the job. When he struggled a bit in a six-rounder against Cedrick Peynaud in 2017, he didn’t deny it or hide from it. He admitted he had a tough time, that Peynaud was awkward and difficult for him, and he came back and rematched Peynaud eight months later, looking a lot better with a second go.
Since dealing with Peynaud, Benn has inched the competition forward. Neither he nor Matchroom seem in any substantial rush to fling him into truly high-profile fights with big names or anything, but they have done a respectable job matching him in bouts that at least presented him with different stylistic challenges on paper. He has delivered; he was far too much for Sebastian Formella over 10 rounds, he smashed Sameul Vargas in 80 seconds, and he out-pointed the always-rugged Adrian Granados last time out in September.
Chris Algieri may be 37, may not have been on your radar too much recently, but I really like this matchup. The former 140 lb titleholder has been in the ring with Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence Jr and Amir Khan, and yeah he lost to those guys, but he also beat Ruslan Provodnikov, he out-warred Tommy Coyle, and last time we saw him in August, he didn’t show any real rust after a break of over two years, easily handling business against Mikkel Les Pierre.
Les Pierre doesn’t present the danger Benn does, not even close, but what’s crucial about that performance is Algieri (25-3, 9 KO) still looked like the same old Algieri, which probably owes to his incredible dedication to fitness and conditioning. He still has a big engine, still keeps a good work rate, and while nobody’s going to confuse him with Floyd Mayweather as a defensive stylist, he’s not just easy to hit unless you’re a 2014 Manny Pacquiao or 2016 Spence, and I mean, I’m not sure anyone expects that of Benn.
But Benn has pushed past the expectations already, at least the expectations of some others. If he can really impress here, it sets him up with some terrific momentum going into 2022. Welterweight is not a young division. Terence Crawford is 34, Errol Spence is 31 and has had a rough couple of years outside the ring, Yordenis Ugas is 35. Benn wants to be in league with Jaron Ennis and Vergil Ortiz Jr as the top rising stars in the division, and so far, so good. Algieri’s a good test.
Undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor (19-0, 6 KO) will put her crown on the line against a mandatory challenger, Kazakhstan’s Firuza Sharipova (14-1, 8 KO). It needs to be stressed that this is a mandatory, and, well, it’s a fight Taylor has to take care of, pretty much.
On paper, there’s not much more to say for the matchup. Taylor is arguably still the best women’s fighter in the sport pound-for-pound at age 35, and while she’s looked beatable in a few bouts, it hasn’t been against the likes of the 27-year-old Sharipova. Yeah, Taylor had some tough times back in May with Tasha Jonas, a fellow highly-experienced amateur veteran, but she had no tough times whatsoever in September against Jennifer Han. There’s a very clear difference when Taylor fights a Persoon or a Jonas and compared to a Han or a Miriam Gutierrez. Maybe Sharipova will surprise everyone, but in all honesty, probably not.
Elsewhere on the card, Joe Cordina (13-0, 8 KO) takes on Belgium’s Miko Khatchatryan (13-0, 7 KO) in a meeting of unbeaten fighters who are at very different levels. Not saying BoxRec’s rankings are gospel (or that anyone’s are), but when you get past the higher profile guys, you can get sort of an idea. For example: Cordina is ranked No. 27 in the world at 130 lbs. Khatchatryan is ranked No. 229.
Robbie Davies Jr (21-3, 14 KO) will look to give his career a kick in the butt against American veteran Hank Lundy (31-9-1, 14 KO), which will be easier said than done. Davies is a decent domestic fighter, but he’s lost his last two competitive matchups to Lewis Ritson and Gabriel Gollaz. Lundy hasn’t been a serious contender in a long time, but he’s still crafty and can be a real pain for opponents, he’s a smart fighter who still carries the genuine confidence and mindset of a contender. At 37, you can’t convince Lundy he’s not going to win a world title.
There will also be returns for Caoimhin Agyarko, Jordan Gill, Peter McGrail, and Paddy Lacey, plus pro debuts for Joe McGrail and Calum French.
Both Benn and Taylor are big favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook as well as, you know, basically everyone else.
DraftKings have Benn at -800 with Algieri at +550, wide odds but not quite as wide as some we’ve seen for main events recently, some of which have not gone as expected.
Taylor is a massive -2500 with Sharipova at +1000.
How to Watch
DAZN will have the live stream for the fights, with the main card starting at 1 pm ET, and the prelims beginning at 11 am ET. Bad Left Hook will have live coverage for the main card on Saturday, December 11.