Conor Benn is eyeing up Amir Khan and Kell Brook after Eddie Hearn promised a massive 2022 if he beats Chris Algieri… but with Terrence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr surely out of reach, who else could be on his hit-list next year?
- Eddie Hearn insists the sky is the limit for welterweight star Conor Benn
- ‘The Destroyer’ is set to fight former world champion Chris Algieri on Saturday
- Benn has already talked up a possible match-up against Amir Khan or Kell Brook
- Hearn says they will be targeting the big names in the division next year
- So, who could the 25-year-old share a ring with should he win this weekend?
- Sign up here to watch Saturday’s fight exclusively on DAZN
Conor Benn stands on the periphery of a mega-fight in 2022 as he prepares to take on former world champion Chris Algieri on Saturday.
‘The Destroyer’ has shown remarkable improvement throughout a stellar year, having beaten Adrian Granados via unanimous decision in September after dismantling veteran Samuel Vargas in one stunning round back in April.
Benn may be pushed into another career-best performance against Algieri, 37, who is expected to be the 25-year-old’s toughest opponent to date, having shared the ring with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Errol Spence Jr, albeit falling short on each occasion.
Though largely inactive in recent years, taking to the ring just four times since his 2016 defeat to Spence Jr, Algieri insists his superior level of experience will prove to be the difference this weekend.
The younger, sharper Benn is widely expected to get the victory, but as we saw as recently as November with Kiko Martinez’s shock victory over Kid Galahad, a former world champion is not to be taken lightly.
Should he prevail as expected, however, promoter Eddie Hearn insists his fighter will take on the big names in the welterweight division next year.
While Benn will certainly be pushing for a world title shot, the likes of Terence Crawford and Spence Jr are surely a step too far at this stage. Sportsmail analyses Benn’s more realistic options.
Up first we have David Avanesyan, who would represent a drastic rise in quality of opposition for Benn.
The 33-year-old has made a name for himself in Britain in 2021, emphatically defeating Josh Kelly, a rival of Benn’s, in February, before ruthlessly stopping Liam Taylor in October.
Avanesyan, the current European welterweight champion, has fallen short in the pursuit of a world title before, losing via unanimous decision to Lamont Peterson back in 2017.
But with five emphatic knockouts on the bounce following his 2018 stoppage defeat to Egidijus Kavaliauskas, it’s widely acknowledged that the hard-hitting Russian is now at world level and deserves another shot.
Whether Benn would be ready for an opponent of such calibre remains to be seen; perhaps an answer to that will be provided on Saturday. But interestingly, Hearn admitted in October that his fighter needed another outing before stepping into the ring with the Russian.
European champion David Avanesyan is on the hunt for a world title shot after a stunning run
Confirming Frank Warren had made an offer for Benn to fight Avanesyan, Hearn said: ‘It was nowhere near enough money for the fight, but I’m not going to say that’s not the reason.
‘Number one is, we’re pretty much there for his fight for December anyway. Number two is, and this is my opinion – Conor will fight anyone tomorrow, I think Conor needs another fight before he fights David Avanesyan. David Avanesyan is a world-class welterweight.’
For Hearn, a fight against Avanesyan, particularly at this stage of Benn’s career, is one that offers more risk than reward, certainly financially.
Additionally, Neil Marsh, who manages Avanesyan, has claimed that the WBC have ordered a fight between the Russian and Vergil Ortiz Jr in a final eliminator, with the winner going on to fight for a world title.
That would delay – if not entirely rule out – Benn facing him next.
Next up is Amir Khan, a bout perhaps less likely, but one that would certainly capture the imagination of the British public.
Benn has on numerous occasions confirmed his desire to fight one of Khan or Kell Brook, who are finally set to go head-to-head in February next year, fighting at a 10st 9lb catchweight, two pounds above the welterweight limit.
The 25-year-old recently confirmed he will be ringside to watch the Brits in actions.
Benn also stated earlier in December that a fight against the winner would serve as perfect preparation for a world title shot in his next outing.
‘(The way) the year could pan out perfectly for me would be stopping Algieri in great fashion within eight rounds because I’d like to get some rounds in,’ he said.
‘Then you have Kell Brook and Amir Khan fighting, then me fighting the winner, just as another fight under my belt and gaining experience. And then really looking at world title honours.’
Benn is interested in fighting both Amir Khan (L) and Kell Brook (R), who square off next year
Khan took to Twitter to play down talk of a fight with Benn earlier this year
Benn also called out Khan in the immediate aftermath of his stunning win over Vargas, provoking the former world champion who he claimed may be ‘too busy on reality shows’.
Khan responded to the callout, however, stating a fight between the pair wouldn’t make sense.
He tweeted: ‘Conor well done. Great kid, wish him the best. At his age I was a world champ. Maybe if he had some belts that fight would make sense but he’s got a long way to go yet.’
Promoter Eddie Hearn recently revealed he has tried to set up a match-up between Benn and Khan on numerous occasions, but believes it’s now not a realistic aim.
‘I’ve tried so hard to get Amir Khan in a ring with Conor Benn but I think that was a fight, both Amir and Kell, said look, we’re at the end, let’s have one last little dance for a few quid and off we go,’ he told talkSPORT,
‘I’m not sure the winner of that fight will fight beyond it. But listen, if the money is right, and Conor Benn is one of the biggest draws in British boxing at the moment… It would certainly be a big fight.’
Should Kell Brook emerge victorious in his all-British clash against Khan, it would be the Sheffield star Benn would target.
As Hearn said, however, a fight between the pair would largely depend on Brook’s mindset. The 35-year-old former world champion could well hang up his gloves should he seal the victory, departing the sport on a high.
Another obstacle would be the weight. As stated, Khan and Brook are fighting at a catchweight slightly above the welterweight limit, and the latter has openly talked about his struggles in making 147lbs.
Whether Benn would be willing to fight at a similar catchweight remains to be seen.
Benn believes it’s Brook who comes into the fight next February as the marginal favourite
The bout between Brook and Khan is widely viewed as a genuine 50-50, with both fighters well beyond their prime. Benn agrees, though admitting he’s leaning slightly towards the Sheffield fighter.
‘They both think they are the best welterweights in Britain, I beg to differ,’ he told Boxing Social.
‘I don’t know we will see how many people are actually still interested in it, I don’t know how much speed Khan has got left and I don’t know how much Brook’s timing is there.
‘But I am leaning towards Kell because all he has to do is land and he could follow through, but it is a 50/50 fight and it is the same even fight it would have been years ago.’
Again, it’s a fight that would generate an abundance of interest in the UK, but it would largely come down to whether Brook would want the fight.
Adrien Broner is perhaps a more realistic option for Benn at this point, given the risk-reward factor that would be on offer.
Having won world titles across four weight divisions, Broner has the name to propel Benn to a different level, particularly in America.
The 32-year-old has also been highly inactive in recent years, taking to the ring just three times since his 2017 loss to Mikey Garcia. He had a draw against Jessie Vargas, a defeat to Manny Pacquiao and, most recently, a laboured points win over Jovanie Santiago in February.
Benn’s camp have shown genuine interest in fighting Broner in recent months, with Hearn revealing the American had rejected two offers prior to the Algieri announcement.
Adrien Broner (left) fell short in his 2019 match-up against the now retired Manny Pacquiao
On a potential match-up Benn, again prior to the Algieri announcement, told talkSPORT: ‘I’ll have Broner next. I’ll have Broner here at the O2, I’ll have him at a stadium out in America, it doesn’t bother me.
‘Broner is definitely an opponent I’d love to fight and share the ring with this year.
‘Four time world division champion, I won’t shy away from anybody and if he wants it, I’ll give it to him. That’s not a problem.’
While Benn has now gone in another direction, Broner has recently revealed that he plans to be back in the ring soon.
A fight would perhaps make sense for both sides. For Broner, it would offer a solid payday for a fighter only going up in the welterweight rankings. And for Benn, an opportunity to get a top name on his CV.
If Benn is seriously targeting a world title next year, then Yordenis Ugas is the opponent he would surely have to go for.
The Cuban welterweight holds the WBA ‘super’ belt, while the WBO strap belongs to Crawford. Spence Jr – who has been out of the ring since December 2020 – holds the remaining WBC and IBF belts.
Ugas became the WBA ‘regular’ champion after beating Abel Ramos in September 2020, before being elevated to super ‘super’ champion after Pacquiao was stripped of his title.
Pacquiao was certainly unhappy with the decision but could have no complaints as he fell to a one-sided unanimous decision defeat to Ugas in August earlier this year, with the veteran subsequently announcing his retirement.
Yordenis Ugas (left) retained his WBA ‘super’ belt with victory over Manny Pacquiao
With four defeats on his 31-fight record, albeit with just the one controversial split-decision loss to Shawn Porter since 2014, Ugas is unquestionably the easiest passage to a world title.
That’s not to say Benn would be the favourite going to the fight; he would certainly be the underdog. But fights against Crawford and Spence Jr would be a step too far, while the former, in particular, is on a hunt for a unification bout.
If Benn was to fight Ugas in 2022, it would most likely be towards the backend of the year. Ugas, who had hoped to unify against Spence Jr, has instead signed up to defend his belt against Eimantas Stanionis. No date or location has yet been announced.
Vergil Ortiz Jr
Unfortunately for Benn, he’s fighting in a jam-packed welterweight division. It’s not just the champions who hold pound-for-pound status, but even the contenders.
Vergil Ortiz Jr is not yet considered a pound-for-pound star as things stand – but in terms of prospects, he’s right up there.
Ortiz Jr, just 23 years old, has won all 18 of his fights to date, all of which have come by way of knockout.
The hard-hitting welterweight has notable wins over Egidijus Kavaliauskas – who caused Crawford some problems before being stopped – and both Maurice Hooker and Vargas.
Vergil Ortiz Jr is one of boxing’s most exciting prospects and could be a future opponent
As stated above, he has reportedly been called into a fight against Avanesyan, with the winner then going on to get a crack at the WBC belt.
Again, Benn would have to weigh up the risks and rewards of a fight against Ortiz Jr. He would be a major underdog against a fighter who is perhaps on a different trajectory as things stand.
A fight between the two could well happen down the line, however, as Ortiz Jr has said himself.
Asked if the match-up could be made in the future earlier this year, Ortiz Jr told GIVEMESPORT: ‘Hey man, it could, you know, if our roads cross and only one of us can make it, then of course.’
Ennis is another fighter you feel Hearn would likely keep Benn away from for now. But again, if Benn is to fight the elites of the welterweight division, Ennis’ name has to be mentioned.
The undefeated 24-year-old is another of boxing’s most exciting prospects, with 28 wins already to his name, including 26 stoppages.
Ennis has drawn comparisons to legendary boxer Roy Jones Jr and has received praise from the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Crawford, who has refused to rule out a future bout between the two.
‘He’s very talented,’ said Crawford during an interview on The Porter Way Podcast Clips. ‘Dude got skills. I been watching dude since he was an amateur.
‘Him coming up, that’s somebody that they always used to compare to me because he can go both ways and stuff like that.
Jaron Ennis (right) most recently stopped Thomas Dulorme with a first-round knockout
‘As I kept watching him, I’m like man, this dude’s good. I always said he’s very talented. I take my hat off to him. He’s doing what he needs to do to get his name out there. He’s going to be the next one up as well.’
Ennis also has very high expectations of himself, recently revealing he plans to become undisputed champion across four weight classes, while also insisting he wants to fight Crawford or Spence next.
However, while believing a fight against one of the big guns could be next, Ennis concedes a world title shot is perhaps a couple of fights down the line.
Ennis told The Sun: ‘Honestly, I feel like it could happen next. But, realistically probably one more fight, one or two more fights.’
While a dust-up between Ennis and Benn could act as a bridge towards world level for both fighters, it’s perhaps too big a risk for the Brit at this stage.
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