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CONOR BENN: MAINTAINING MOMENTUM DURING LOCKDOWN

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The pandemic has introduced a lot of barriers for us and has proven especially difficult for those who can’t do their job remotely. Staying motivated during this period has been a common problem for many in the country, with all norms thrown out the window in what must be one of our strangest collective experiences in recent history.

It’s a small silver lining for many that right now they can wake up later, not worry about their clothes every morning, or just generally let themselves go a bit. But what about those who have to keep a routine because their livelihood depends on it? 

There are a number of sportspeople who are standing out as keeping an exceptional level of activity and routine even while they’re being kept away from their regular training facilities or activities. For example, Tyson Fury’s open home workouts have become a surprise Instagram hit, as have Joseph Parker’s comedy skits.

Recently, however, some people took aim at Billy Joe Saunders for turning down the Canelo fight in September, after saying he wouldn’t be ready for it in time. As a non-athlete, it’s easy to look at an event two months away and think that that’s a long time, but the reality is that boxers have an especially hard time preparing for fights in lockdown.

Aside from not being able to train to full capacity at home, without a perfect gym set up, their preparation goes beyond being physically strong and fit. At the top level, they need to have access to sparring partners who can simulate the style of their next opponent, they need access to cornermen and trainers who can analyze them and provide feedback. Everyone in the camp will have watched hours of fight footage and will be doing everything possible to find the opponent’s weaknesses and tells, then getting the sparring partner to emulate these as much as possible. 

That being said, it’s natural that some boxers relax more than others between fights. After all, they’re only human and training hard for months on end, even when there are no set goals or deadlines to meet is fairly unrealistic. Some boxers haven’t taken their foot off the gas at all though and have been training just as hard regardless.

One of these boxers is Conor Benn. Well-known even before his debut thanks to the very large shadow cast by his father, Benn has lived his whole career in the spotlight. While he’s yet to emulate the lofty success of Nigel Benn, Conor has shown a great deal of family resemblance.

Nigel Benn was known for his aggression and formidable athleticism, but he also had a tireless work ethic. In the ring, he threw power punches more often than he jabbed and focused on punishment rather than boxing pretty. This intensity carried over into his training and he became well-known for putting himself through extreme physical exercises and maintaining a high intensity.

This level of dedication and work ethic is something that Conor Benn possesses too. Conor has been training extremely hard during the lockdown, despite not having a fight lined up and has been showing us clips of his sessions on Instagram and YouTube. He recently told Matchroom, “When others are slacking, I’m in here working!” and it’s a mentality that many other boxers could learn from.

He was busy last year, making three ring appearances in 2019, and while his 2020 is not going to be as frantic, it could end up being equally important. This year is likely to represent a big step up in opposition for Benn and how he deals with that under such unorthodox circumstances will reveal a great deal about his character. 

Who could he face next?

Benn last fought in October, convincingly beating Steve Jamoye inside four rounds. His next opponent will test him much more, as he’s looking to challenge for the British title shortly and standing between Benn and the British Welterweight title is a real gauntlet. 

Hearn spoke last month about having Conor Benn contend for Chris Jenkin’s belt as the headline opener for Matchroom Fight Camp, an honor which has since gone to Sam Eggington and Ted Cheeseman. Honestly, I think it might have been a good decision as Benn would have been making a huge jump by going straight for Jenkins after facing Jamoye and Jussi Koivula. 

Benn has been showing a great deal of improvement and is always exciting to watch, but he still has flaws that need ironing out facing the far more experienced and weathered Jenkins. The fight I thought would be happening for him this year, and the one which made the most sense to me, was Luther Clay. In the end, Clay did end up making the Fight Camp cards but will face Chris Kongo instead who looks to be very overmatched. 

For Benn to face another young prospect who has different talents and abilities, but who also has a similar level of flaws and improvements still to be made, will allow Benn to build his game much more gradually. A fight with Clay could potentially have the WBO global title on the line too.

Also already mentioned as a possible next fight for Benn is Johnny Garton. The Garton fight would be a really good test for Benn and a real earner of a fight. Benn would be dealing with a ‘past-peak Pexican’, but would still have his hands absolutely full, as Garton’s level of experience still makes him a major threat. Garton only lost twice, to Sam Eggington and Chris Jenkins, so a matchup with Garton would allow Benn to test how far off the pace he could be when faces Jenkins in the future. 

The fight that people have been talking about, but which I don’t see happening as much as the other two this year, is Josh Kelly. Both Benn and Kelly have been after each other on social media and I would honestly love to see this fight happen, but I think Benn needs a few other fights to get him ready. 

Kelly is doing a great job of climbing the WBC rankings in a very stacked weight group. Altogether he just looks far more polished and technically sound than Benn, leading me to think that if Benn were to face him next, he’d get gradually picked apart as he tired. Give the fans this fight, definitely, just not right now and not after Benn has been training ina modified manner under lockdown. 

What do you think about Conor Benn’s next fight, who should he face? Let us know in the comments below.