Back in the 1990â€™s Benn vs Eubank was a big deal, Benn vs Eubank II was even bigger, so much so that they held it in a football stadium (Old Trafford) and showed it across the world live on TV, half a billion people tuned in to watch.
Thatâ€™s a hard act to follow, and yet Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr have both shouldered the burden and made good progress with their respective careers.
Conor Benn headlines Matchroom Boxingâ€™s JDNXGEN show at the iconic York Hall in Bethnal Green in London tonight, taking on Finlandâ€™s Jussi Koivula in defence of his hard-won WBA Continental welterweight title over 10 rounds.
Considering that the 22-year-old Benn has only had 14 fights, all wins, with 9 early endings, in a near 3-year career, itâ€™s a little surprising that Matchroom has decided to heap the pressure on his young shoulders, by making him the bill topper at this stage of his development. With British Super-welterweight champion Ted Cheeseman in an important defence of his title on the undercard, surely the obvious choice would be to make that the main event?
Young Benn has impressed at times in those 14 wins, but there is a long way to go before he can be tested against the best 147lb domestic opposition. Matches against the likes of Dale Evans and Glen Foot would be great fights to gauge his progress, but Sam Eggington, Bradley Skeete, and Frankie Gavin are too experienced and seasoned at this stage.
So why make Benn the main event? Surely that tells us that Matchroom are considering a move up to title contention for the Ilford man in the near future. Koivula lost a unanimous decision to unbeaten Frenchman Jordy Weiss for the EBU title in his last outing in April, and only lost by split decision to former Amir Khan opponent Samuel Vargas in Canada in 2017, the Fin only loses to quality opponents and is without a doubt the best that Benn will have faced to date.
Old heads will have told Matchroom that at 22-years-old, Benn has time on his side and needs to go out and learn his trade the old fashioned way, taking fights against steadily improving levels while travelling to gyms across the world, sparring with better boxers than himself. But it seems Benn has the impetuosity of youth and wants to reach the summit at the earliest possible point.
It is interesting to note that father Nigel fought Greg Taylor (4-7-0) in his 15th pro fight in 1988. â€˜The Dark Destroyerâ€™ had frightening power that took him to (22-1-0 22Koâ€™s) before he was taken the distance in America by Jorge Amparo for the first time in his 24th bout. Connor has nowhere near that sort of firepower so really needs to add some boxing skills to his armoury, something that trainer Tony Sims has been working on for some time now.
Conor came close to losing his â€˜0â€™ against Frenchman Cedrick Peynaud in December 2017, getting up from 2 first-round knockdowns to come back and score two of his own and snatch the decision in what was expected to be a routine 6 rounder. In a 10 round rematch with the vacant WBA Continental title on the line, Benn fought in a more controlled manner and scored a unanimous decision to prove that he has more than one string to his bow.
Koivula (24-6-1) is a man that Benn will need to take seriously. The 35-year-old from Tampere, Finland has faced Leonard Bundu, Mohammed Mimoune, Samuel Vargas, and Jordy Weiss during his 11 years as a pro, so is vastly more experienced in terms of the level of opposition he has faced.
But youth and hunger are with the champion and I expect him to retain his crown after a tough 10 rounds that should help with his fistic education.