Conor Benn goes in-depth on a number of topics, including the pressure of being Nigel Benn’s son.
Second-generation fighter Conor Benn (13-0, 9 KO) returns to the ring on Saturday at the O2 Arena, part of the Dave Allen-Lucas Browne show that will stream live on DAZN.
Benn sat down recently with Fight Hub TV to discuss his future, his past fights, living up to his father’s name, fellow prospect Josh Kelly, Crawford-Khan, and more.
On his April 20 fight
“My career has been dramatic so far, from my facial allergy when I had my fight in New York, as well as suffering a broken jaw before that, where I was out for eight or nine months. And also I had a tendon injury in my hand in my last fight. By the time I fight April 20, it will have been about 10 months since my last fight. I’m only getting better, only getting stronger with age.”
On how he assesses last year
“It was a year where I picked up my first title (the WBA Continental welterweight title), got some closure on the (first) fight I had with (Cedrick Peynaud). People know it was a hard fight the first fight, second fight I thought I’d get the better of him, and I did with ease, I won by unanimous decision. So that chapter’s closed, now I can progress on with my career. I’ve got the WBA Continental title, and I can start knocking more people out.”
On mentally dealing with injuries
“It’s hard, you’re seeing everyone do their thing and you’re just sitting at home. What would you do? This is what I enjoy doing. I love training, I love even the boys in the gym. I had the first surgery, then the second surgery and that proper disheartened me as well, I was out for so long again. Everything happens for a reason. When I broke my jaw, I come back better. You’ve got to look at the positives. When you start looking at the negatives, that’ll do you in up here, you start going mad. So I’ve had 10 months off. I worked on things that I couldn’t work on because I was always in training or preparing for a fight or dieting. I worked on myself. I worked on me.”
On his progression as a pro with a limited amateur background
“It’s hard work that gets me through. There’s no slacking here. Everyone knows I graft hard. If anything is going to get me through, it’s that. When you lose in the amateurs, no one cares. Brush it off, get up, go again, no one cares. In the pros, it’s the end of the world, so there’s a lot of pressure to keep that ‘0.’ I’ve had hard fights against people I shouldn’t have had hard fights against, but I’ve always found a way to come through, and I always will find a way to come through. I’ll do what needs to be done. That’s been shown, and a good pair. That’s been shown.
“All these amateurs that come up, they don’t have to have that test yet; they’re so gifted technically because they’ve been doing it from the age of seven. In time, I’m only going to get better. But because I’m in the public eye, people want to say, ‘Oh, you’re no good’ — you don’t just all of a sudden become an amazing fighter overnight.
“It don’t work like that, if it did everyone would. It takes years and years of graft. Sticking to it, training hard, repetitiously. ‘Why do I keep doing this? Why don’t I fight like how I spar?’ There’s pressure to deal with, as well, on the night. It’s not just jumping in the ring, there’s that expectation, that pressure. I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want no bum, I don’t want no roadsweeper,’ because that sticks more pressure on me to get him out of there. Give me someone who’s decent, who’s credible, who I can work with, and then there’s less pressure.
“People expect me to not do as well or expect me to lose, I’d rather that. I’d rather be stuck in with a world champion tomorrow than stuck in with a bum and then have a hard fight with a bum. Then what am I in this game for? Can’t even put in a good performance against someone I should be knocking out. I’m still young, I’m 22 years young. I’m still working it out. It’s coming together.”
On what we can expect in 2019
“I don’t know if you can expect a devastating knockout or an entertaining knockout or fight. Just me. I’m not going in there and saying I’m going to box, or I’m gonna stay on the back foot, or I’m gonna be a counter-puncher. I’m gonna go in there and do what I do best, and whatever that is on the night, I’ll get it done.”
On being the son of Nigel Benn and his father’s influence
“I look up to him so much and watched his fights so much that it just — I fight like him. When you admire someone so much, you become like that person. When you love someone that much, you think, ‘Yeah, I’d die to be the man you are, half the man you are.’ You just become what you wanna become. If I become 10 percent of what my dad was, I’ll be very content.”
On pressure trying to live up to his father’s legacy
“Of course there is. When your dad’s a Hall of Famer, two-time world champion, in the Guinness World Records, WBC Hall of Fame, that’s quite an achievement for my old man. So of course there is, but people are starting to realize I’m me for me. At my last fight, there was 15,000 or 18,000 at the O2 going mad to see me fight this guy because (the first fight between us) was such an entertaining fight. The name can carry you so far, but people won’t turn up to watch you fight if you’re boring. That’s me. When I got a standing ovation at York Hall, that was me. The name can only take you so far and then you’ve got to have something different about you, and people know they get value for money when they watch me.”
On how far he feels he can go in boxing
“I don’t know. I think I can go all the way. You can’t rush these things. It all takes time. When I was knocking people out (early on), they’re saying, ‘When’s he gonna fight Kell Brook, when’s he gonna fight Khan?’ What? Like, six fights in, just because I’m knocking people out? People are very — they just don’t get it. It takes years and years and years of practice, hard work, repetition, dedication. You make mistakes, you go again. If I have an unblemished career, I’d be very, very, very surprised. Very surprised. I’m gonna have ups and downs. It’s about coming back and learning, that makes you. All these hard fights I’ve had, if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have learned so much. It’s all growing, it’s all learning.”
On the fights with Cedrick Peynaud
“I had five fights in six months that year when I fought Peynaud (the first time). I had that facial allergy, which was very bad. That was a week before (the previous fight in New York). I came back (home), was jet-lagged, tired, I blew up overweight because I didn’t think I was fighting again. I had Dunkin’ Donuts out in New York. Every corner, I was, like, ‘Is there another one? Is there another one? I didn’t have a coffee with that one last time.’ So I come back, I had to shed the weight, I had that skin allergy, there was a lot of things going on in my personal life. But I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve knocked the last four people out with decent records, undefeated, some of them, this is nothing.’ Bang, one-two. ‘Whoa! OK, then, here we go.’ All that shows is a pair of cojones, which I did. That sort of stunted it a bit, but also released a bit of pressure, because people ow can see I’m still learning, I’ve got a lot to work on.
“But then I thought, ‘I need to fight this geezer again.’ I fought him again, and I don’t know exactly what I thought I’d do. I put him down three times in that fight and won by unanimous decision with the injury. What can you say to that? It shows a lot of (heart). I didn’t have to fight him again. I really didn’t. I chose to. I wanted to fight him again, I needed closure.”
On possibly facing Josh Kelly
“If you put together all my explosive knockouts — let’s forget my hard fight against Peynaud, who was my bogeyman. He was just my bogeyman, I just struggled with his style. He switched southpaw the second fight, made it double difficult for me. It took me a couple rounds to realize he was southpaw, then when we realized that, and dealt with him no problem. But when you put together my knockouts, they’re all explosive. Calculated. Miss with the right, come back with the left, and it often would be the left that sparked them out.
“Even with a (Team GB) pedigree — he’s a great, good fighter, obviously. He can look good against that are throwing single 1-2s, very stiff and slow with it. Then when you’re fighting someone with explosive power who comes from all angles, and can do it for 10 rounds, and I can take a dig, come up, and still going. That guy I fought, Peynaud, had about 102 kickboxing fights, 60 of them knockouts, and only lost about five of them. That’s kickboxing, but still, you’ve got to be saying he can obviously dig.
“I just believe I’ll have the explosiveness, the aggression, the pressure, the attitude, and the (heart) to get me through, over 12.”
On how he rates Josh Kelly
“He’s a good fighter, but how will he get on when someone comes on and sticks it on him? That’s the question people don’t know. That Kris George that he fought was absolutely shocking. He just quit, as well, that says enough about him. Very stiff, and even his left hooks were catching Kelly. My left hooks put people to sleep. 90 percent of my knockouts come from my left hook. So when you wanna talk like that, anyone can look good against stiffs. I looked good against all them six undefeated kids I knocked out, I looked brilliant. Then I fought a person who can hit, come forward, and take a hit. That’s when (heart) shows. Heart gets you through some of these hard fights.”
On Harlem Eubank calling him out and being on the radar
“Not really. He’s, like, a lightweight. He’s had two knockouts in seven fights. He almost lost his second or third fight. Matchroom didn’t put him on no more Matchroom shows because he was boring. So, no, not really. Yeah, the names go, but I think he should try and think about learning before he thinks he can step up and think he can have a chance. If he wants to step up, so be it, but it doesn’t make no sense. If down the line he keeps winning, which I can’t see, and I’m at his weight, I don’t know — I don’t really follow his career. I only watch the Sky or Matchroom or Frank Warren shows, or shows out in America. I haven’t really seen if he’s fought anyone, but he should focus on getting better himself.”
On Chris Jenkins beating Johnny Garton for the British welterweight title
“Jenkins looked good. Garton looked not the best I’ve seen him. Garton and me would’ve been a hell of a fight, and it’s a shame I couldn’t have that fight because of my injuries. Everything happens for a reason. I’d never heard of Jenkins until then, but he looked good, he looked alright.”
On Crawford vs Khan
“Samuel Vargas put Khan down. I think Crawford’s a different breed. I think Khan’s hand speed can give anybody trouble. I hope I’m wrong, but I think it’s a matter of when Crawford figures him out. It’ll be game over. I hope not, because it’d be good to see Khan bring home the win.”