Conor Benn wanted to make a statement in his matchup with Samuel Vargas, and it would be hard to have done much more than we saw.
Benn (18-0, 12 KO) flashed his speed and power almost immediately, and ripped through Vargas with an 80-second stoppage, ending things when referee Michael Alexander stepped in to stop the fight with Benn battering Vargas against the ropes.
Vargas (31-7-2, 14 KO) had been stopped before, but never like this. Errol Spence Jr beat him in four, Danny Garcia and Vergil Ortiz Jr in seven. Benn just tore through him with ease, as Vargas wasn’t ready for the speed and power, got caught cold, and while you might argue a veteran should be given a chance to survive, Vargas seemed headed for a brutal KO shot from Benn.
“Statement made. No one banged him out in one round. Easy. Easy. Give me a proper test,” Benn said. “Give me Amir Khan. I know he’s busy on reality shows and all that, but listen, if he wants it, he can get it.”
Benn said he’s “ready for the top dogs” and “wants to test himself,” saying he’s built for this and made for the pressure. But his clear target is Amir Khan, who hasn’t fought in two years and doesn’t have a top-level win since 2015 at best. It would be a big fight in the UK, and is the sort of thing that does make sense on that end. But he also did mention Shawn Porter and Adrien Broner, throwing in some new names.
“When he’s coming through those steps up the way he’s coming through, you have to be ready to take a big jump. Amir Khan is a big jump,” Eddie Hearn said. Benn objected to the last part, but Hearn likes the Khan-Benn fight, calling it “probably one of the easiest fights to sell I’ll ever take part in.”
“Whether Amir Khan will say, ‘I want to bow out to a young man coming through the ranks like Conor Benn,’ that’s up to him. The money will talk in that respect,” Hearn added.
Savannah Marshall KO-3 Maria Lindberg
This wound up a total mismatch in every way, as Marshall (10-0, 8 KO) easily retained her WBO middleweight title by dropping 44-year-old late replacement opponent Lindberg (19-7-2, 10 KO) twice and scoring a knockout in the third round when Lindberg decided not to get up from the second flooring.
Lindberg was too small, too old, and while this was the first time she’s been stopped and she has always been durable, Marshall is just too good a puncher for someone like her. The fight was what it was, and most of the attention will be on the possible Claressa Shields fight for Marshall.
“Utmost respect for Maria, honestly, I’m really grateful that she stepped in, because it looked like I wasn’t fighting,” Marshall said. “A change of opponent is a bit hard to take, you’ve trained for weeks on a certain style. She’d never been stopped and I didn’t think it would go like that, I really didn’t.”
As for the Shields fight, Marshall was adamant that Shields (11-0, 2 KO) simply does not want to fight, that she fears Marshall’s power. But promoter Eddie Hearn was more optimistic, saying “good progress” has been made. You can read more about that here.
Shannon Courtenay UD-10 Ebanie Bridges
This was a hell of a fight, an absolute war. Courtenay (7-1, 3 KO) claims the WBA bantamweight title, which was vacant coming in, with a terrific points win over Bridges (5-1, 2 KO), who put up a tremendous battle in defeat.
Bad Left Hook scored it 96-94, while the judges had it 97-94, 98-92, and 98-92. The latter two cards really don’t reflect how competitive and grueling this fight was, and were a bit wide for my tastes, but two-minute rounds can be tough to score sometimes. If 20 seconds of a round really stick with you — just let them fight three-minute rounds, for God’s sake. Enough with this.
But without getting into all that right now, you have to love this fight. An absolute scrap, start-to-finish, with both getting buzzed here and there, Bridges showing incredible determination, Courtenay boxing really well when she didn’t get caught trading. If anyone thought these two were just hype and good looks and marketing coming in, this fight proves them wrong, flat-out. These two are fighters, without question, and I defy anyone to watch this fight and not respect their spirit, determination, guts, and toughness.
“I can’t put it into words. Unbelievable,” an emotional Courtenay said after the fight. “We’ve worked so hard, and to be someone who’s genuinely turned their life around — this is proof that anyone can achieve anything.
“I kept pumping the jab out. She was trying to knock me out. When I made mistakes and got reckless, she was good at trading, but I feel like my jab won me the fight. Her eye showed that and I just kept pumping the eye.”
Asked what was next, Courtenay said she’d been told if she won, it would be the Rachel Ball rematch, which this was supposed to be. Ball beat Courtenay last summer at Matchroom Fight Camp, but got COVID and Bridges stepped in here. Hearn indicated that is likely going to be the plan still.
“I would love to see the Rachel Ball fight, I think that’s fair for everybody,” Hearn added. “And I think Shannon will want to put that right for her record. She feels like she won that fight. We’ve got unbelievable plans for Fight Camp this year with crowds, and I would love to see that rematch there.”
- Kash Farooq UD-10 Alexander Espinoza: A hell of a fight here, with Farooq winning a minor/regional WBC bantamweight belt, which is most important in upping his WBC ranking. Espinoza (20-3-2, 8 KO) had no interest in giving that belt up without a serious fight, and he gave Farooq (15-1, 6 KO) just that. This was a tremendous action fight, both guys landing a lot of punches, good pace throughout. Farooq appeared to gas a bit late and may have been affected by a hard clash of heads, his right eye marking up and then cutting toward the latter stages of the fight. Espinoza was remarkably tough in this one, took some great shots and just never really went away, and threw back throughout.
Judges had this 97-95, 97-94, and 97-93 for Farooq. Bad Left Hook had it a bit wider at 98-92 for Farooq, but the official scores are fair, and we know in Europe judges tend to use 10-10 rounds a lot more than Americans do, and I don’t disagree with the practice but am conditioned how I am at this point. Bottom line is this was a terrific fight, one to catch up on if you missed it. Not quite a Fight of the Year level bout, but one that those who watched live will definitely remember.
- Nick Campbell TKO-2 Petr Frohlich: Campbell is 31, a 6’7” former rugby player from Glasgow looking to give heavyweight boxing a go. This was obviously fought at a low level, as Frohlich (2-31-1, 1 KO) wasn’t brought in to win, but Campbell was fun to watch, “starting in fifth gear,” as Paul Smith put it, and never relenting. Frohlich was ruled down early in the second and then stopped by the referee just 40 seconds into that round, which was fair, he was putting up no real fight. Campbell isn’t coming in with a huge ego or anything, his goal is currently British and Commonwealth titles — there’s never been a British heavyweight champion from Scotland — and to keep learning, see what he can do in the fight game. He’s a huge, athletic guy, confident he can fight at a fast pace all the time. If nothing else, he might be very fun to watch.