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Eimantas Stanionis says Eddie Hearn is protecting Conor Benn, Errol Spence Jr is target fight

Eimantas Stanionis is in a good spot in the welterweight division, and says he’s hungry for the big fights.

Eimantas Stanionis wants the big fights, and has his eyes on Errol Spence Jr
Eimantas Stanionis wants the big fights, and has his eyes on Errol Spence Jr
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Eimantas Stanionis has emerged as a legitimate welterweight contender following his April 16 win over Radzhab Butaev, and his name is bouncing around for some possible noteworthy fights.

One is Matchroom Boxing rising star Conor Benn. When asked about the fight, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn sort of downplayed it, giving Stanionis respect as a “really good fighter,” but stating he has “zero profile” and that he would only be able to sell 5,000 tickets for Benn vs Stanionis in London if he were to put it together.

Stanionis believes there’s more to it than that, and also questions the reality of Hearn’s statement.

“I heard what Eddie Hearn said. They don’t want the fight and that’s why he said that nobody knows me. I just laughed when I heard it, but he is just protecting his guy, it’s his job,” Stanionis said.

“He is promoting a guy for the future, and he knows it would be a very tough fight with me. But I was just laughing because there is a big, big community of Lithuanians in England and many people would fly over from my home country for that fight, too, so we would sell a lot more than 5,000 tickets.

“Conor is a good fighter, he can bang, and he has power, but he has never fought anyone who would pressurize him like I would, he’s been fighting inactive guys. But a fight between us would be a lot of fun!”

Stanionis (14-0, ( KO) also spoke about his desire to face Errol Spence Jr next. Spence, of course, has been going back-and-forth with Terence Crawford ever since Spence beat Yordenis Ugas to unify the WBC, IBF, and WBA belts, taking the WBA from Ugas on April 16, the main event on the night Stanionis beat Butaev.

“My contract means I am next in line to fight Spence, so I will wait for that opportunity,” he stated. “It would be cool if I could fight him for three belts because when you achieve one goal, you have to create new ones and I want the other belts. I like a challenge; I want to see where I stand and want to see how deep I can dig and how far I can go through the fire.

“I don’t know if Spence will fight Crawford next. I am a sports fan, too, and so I would love to see that fight, but I am also a young, hungry fighter who wants the biggest fights. I am contracted to fight Spence next so maybe he gives up the belts and I will fight somebody else.”

It should be said that Spence would in no way, in any scenario, have to give up belts — plural if he doesn’t fight Stanionis next. The most that would possibly happen is Spence having to give up the WBA title, as Stanionis is the WBA “world” (“regular,” “secondary,” whatever) titleholder, and by contract will be Spence’s mandatory.

But sanctioning bodies do as they please, too, and they usually chase the biggest money possible for their sanctioning fees. That would be Spence vs Crawford, not Spence vs Stanionis, and everyone knows that. If Spence and Crawford iron out a deal for an undisputed fight, there’s basically no way the WBA will officially order Spence vs Stanionis instead. Best case scenario is Stanionis gets “step-aside money” in order to allow that, and probably a promise that he will be ordered by the WBA to face the winner.

In that case, if Crawford wins, he’s already stated the chance that he would vacate at 147 and move up to 154 to fight Jermell Charlo. If all of that were to happen, Stanionis would simply be the only recognized WBA titlist in the division, anyway, unless they chose to then order two other fighters into a vacant “super world” fight, which wouldn’t be unheard of or anything.

But Stanionis is in a good spot. Speaking purely as a boxing fan, I would love to see Benn vs Stanionis, because I think Stanionis is doubly correct in that he would be a new level of challenge for Benn, and that it would be a really fun fight to watch. There’s basically no way that fight isn’t all-action. I don’t expect to see it, but that’s another story you have to accept pretty often, purely as a boxing fan.

Stanionis will probably find his big fight in time. In the meantime, hopefully he gets out again in 2022 and maybe even gets that big, big, big fight in 2023.