AS a boxing commodity in his own right, Conor Benn has already stepped out of father Nigel’s deep shadow to prove himself as an event headliner who understands the fight business and how to maximise his earning potential.
The 24-year-old is a poster boy of the current generation; handsome, heavily tattooed and social media savvy. Throw in a 17-fight unbeaten record and Benn has employed his family name to ensure when opportunity knocked, he was ready to answer.
Yet the young ‘Destroyer’s position as a legit British boxing draw could evolve into that of a prizefighter with global potential if he can come through a significant step up in opponent this weekend.
Colombian Samuel Vargas has not only been there and done it, he’s got a collection of T-shirts to prove it. The 31-year-old’s 31-6-2 record features fights on three continents and against numerous world champions.
Vargas’ last outing was a familiar main event spot against one of the hottest prospects on the planet, Vergil Ortiz Jr. And whilst Ortiz followed Errol Spence and Danny Garcia in stopping the Toronto-based South American his chin has held up in the past.
Amir Khan had to drag himself up off the floor to pick his way to a one-sided points decision in 2018. Whilst another former world champion, Luis Collazo, could only manage a split decision win over the Colombian six months later.
Conor Benn eyes a domestic dust-up with Amir Khan or Kell Brook pic.twitter.com/lcNCAL49H7
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) April 6, 2021
Vargas is a gatekeeper to world title contender status. Six months ago, this matchup would have felt like too much too soon for the Brit, who’s built a big following for his gung-ho style of throwing volume combinations and biting down on his gumshield.
But that was before Benn’s last fight, when he outboxed 22-1 German prospect Sebastian Formella. His transformation into a boxer who could follow a gameplan and resist the impulse of engaging in a brawl was tangible.
Khan, however, still isn’t too sure Benn’s newly-found maturity will be enough.
“It's a massive step-up for Conor Benn,” Khan admits. “You have to stay focused throughout the whole fight, because this is boxing, one punch can change a fight. Samuel has that power, has decent skills, which can cause any fighter problems.”
Spence, Terence Crawford and Manny Pacquiao currently sit laden with belts atop the welterweight division and are still some way off Benn’s immediate trajectory.
But victory at the Copper Box will bolster any world title aspirations, offering up Benn as a British prospect to challenge the expectations of American starlets Ortiz Jr and Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis.
Beset with a champions mindset already, there is little chance of Benn coming in under prepared and I expect to see an even better version of the prodigy on Saturday night. But Vargas can be both dangerous and fallible early on, so a quick and elusive start will be crucial.
Vargas won’t make it easy and is dangerous from bell to bell. But this is a generational fight and Benn can overcome the old veteran’s tricks to weather any storm and claim a career-redefining victory.
TIP: Benn on Points