Putting his undefeated record on the line, Conor Benn aims to move up the WBA rankings with a definitive win over the vastly experienced, Samuel Vargas.
Matchroom: Benn vs Vargas Predictions & Results
It’s strange to find a card with two world title fights on, that just hasn’t seemed to resonate with any of the casual or hardcore boxing fans. Granted, both world title fights are in the Women’s divisions and involving fighters that aren’t Clarissa Shields or Katie Taylor. Still, though, Hearn has been kind enough to spare us Saturday night’s fights ending up on a PPV in a couple of months. There is only so much Shannon Courtenay praise I can muster before requiring a long, cold shower.
Without any verbal/physical fireworks or horrendous weight misses at the weigh-ins, the hype surrounding the event is at near rock bottom. While Conor does attract eyes naturally with the Benn name value, he has only recently in his last fight appeared to be a polished product. Sebastian Formella may well prove a fantastic scalp as Benn climbs the WBA rankings, but the Essex boy will have to replicate last year’s performance against a hardened veteran in Samuel Vargas if he is to prove it wasn’t a flash in the pan. Vargas won’t be bringing any new tricks under his sleeve on Saturday night, but his strong chin and wild pace has the potential to drag Benn into the dog fights that have nearly been his downfall in the past (cough cough, Cedrick Peynaud).
Defending her WBO World Title against Maria Lindberg, Savannah Marshall is being pushed hard by Matchroom in anticipation of a mouth-watering future bout with Clarissa Shields. Four-time world title challenger Lindberg is an alright opponent for a last-minute replacement, but former champion and original opponent Femke Hermans would have been a more intriguing affair. The rest of the card is prospect watches (including Ukashir Farooq attempting to jump up the WBC rankings) and the Instagram clash between Shannon Courtenay and Ebanie Bridges.
WBA Continental Welterweight Title
Conor Benn (17-0, 11KO) vs Samuel Vargas (31-6-2, 14KO)
It’s been a wild ride following Benn’s career since his debut back in 2016. Entering the professional ranks with a limited amateur background and huge pressure on the back of his father’s success, Conor has always been forced to fight to big expectations. While he may have had access to a wonderful coach in Tony Sims, right from the start of his journey, Benn has effectively learned on the job under the intense media spotlight. The fact that Benn has retained his undefeated record is impressive in itself. A near 65% KO ratio for a twenty-four-year-old fighter, however, suggests the heavy-handed prospect has the natural physical gifts to thrive at the higher levels. What has always held Benn back, though, has been his inclination to drop his game plan at first chance and engage in a phone-booth war. While it is exciting viewing for the casuals, Benn was lucky not to be stopped in the first round by the very humble opponent in Cedrick Peynaud.
How delightfully surprising then, when Benn laid down a thoroughly dominating clinic over Sebastian Formella. Formella, a sharp German technician let down only by his lack of physical gifts, had only three months prior taken two-time Welterweight world champion, Shawn Porter, to a decision. In a fight where many experts believed Benn would hit a technical roadblock where his raw athleticism would no longer carry him, the Brit emerged the superior boxer. Sprinting onto the front foot from the opening bell, Benn pressured Formella for the full ten rounds with short combinations. No longer wildly hooking to enter the striking range, Benn opted for a series of feints and level changes that forced the lumbering German to break his guard before Benn could counter. While Benn’s hand down style doesn’t play into his rigid upper body, it does allow him to throw from unorthodox angles and catch opponents unaware. There are still many issues for the prospect to iron out before he can realistically challenge the elite around the 147lbs region, the most obvious is his over-committing to power shots. When Benn fails to take his opponent’s head off, his drastic torsion in the hips regularly leaves feet unbalanced and guard in disarray. The lunging rear uppercut is a high-risk shot when thrown bare (as Benn prefers), but has been an excellent shot of his to break the high guard of opponents.
Big Sammy Vargas has been in the game for a long time, and although only thirty-one years old, the Colombian finds himself well within his twilight. Without a win of any sort of quality for the past few years, Vargas is also coming off of a stoppage loss just half a year ago against Vergil Ortiz Jr. While many Brits will know Vargas as the man who caused a panic after he knocked Amir Khan to the canvas, he looked almost a decade older against Ortiz. Ortiz is a fabulous prospect, and Vargas was able to eat CRAZY punishment over the seven rounds, but the veteran was unable to record any notable offence. Vargas’ path to victory against Benn can’t afford to just be ‘take him into the later rounds, as the Brit’s gas tank held up well during the Formella fight. Instead, the Columbian needs to prevent Benn from setting up shop on his preferred front-foot through dirty means (tying up, weighing down, liberal use of head/shoulders/elbows) or baiting Benn into a dogfight and hoping to land flush in a 50/50 exchange. Seeing as Vargas hasn’t recorded a stoppage in four years, it is Vargas’ best interests to stink out the joint.
Predicted Result: Benn Decision
Vargas may have been stopped in seven rounds last time out but Vergil Ortiz Jr. is a bad bad man. Benn is a heavy-handed pressure fighter, but Vargas was able to withstand a massive onslaught with almost no offence of his own. There are clearer flaws in Benn’s game, not least his rigid upper body and tendency to stretch his feet far too wide, leaving him frequently cemented in bad positions. While Vargas will face a similar woe as Sebastian Formella, lacking the power necessary to punish Benn for his technical faults, he will be able to gain slightly more respect. Unfortunately, while Benn’s back-foot boxing is still yet to be truly tested, it will take a bigger puncher than Vargas to reach a verdict. The major question is whether Benn will be able to replicate the classy, composed clinic that he put on against Formella, or if he will return to the dog-fight brawls that have plagued his early career. In the most likely scenario that it is the former, Vargas’ only route to victory would be dragging the fight into an ugly affair in which the Colombian uses head, shoulders and elbows to rough up the prospect. If the latter is true, Vargas has a chance to land flush in 50/50 exchanges, but without a stoppage in four years, he would have to rely on a decent dose of luck.
Result: Benn def. Vargas // TKO Round 1 1:20
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Women’s Middleweight (160)
WBO World Women’s Middleweight Title
Savannah Marshall (9-0, 7KO) vs Maria Lindberg (19-6-2, 10KO)
Last-minute replacement or not, Savannah Marshall looks to already be amongst the cream of the crop in a shallow Women’s Middleweight division. The Hartlepool faithful, trained under Peter Fury, has shown a clear desire to chase stoppages and fill out highlight reels. There haven’t been many opponents of note to date, but that is more indicative of the state of the heavier Women’s divisions, rather than any sort of ducking. Christ, Marshall is effectively fighting downwards this stage after overcoming domestic rival Hannah Rankin last time out. The Clarissa Shields fight will come with time but I have no quarrels with Marshall cleaning out what is left at Middleweight.
A tall fighter for the weight class, Marshall boxes out of a relaxed hands-down stance that uses her jab well to keep a comfortable distance. Due to her size, opponent’s have struggled to tie up Marshall and thus opponent’s are forced to shell up or eat shots. While Marshall is defensively open on her left side due to her range-finding lead arm, whenever she is pressed Marshall tucks her right on cue perfectly every time. There isn’t a lot of flaws to find in Marshall. Her eye for a counter is astute, perhaps her shots at times seem cumbersome, but they are deathly accurate. At range, Marshall wins based on reach and a calculated jab. Up close, Marshall pepper the body with hooks before doubling up on the right uppercut that switches between body and head.
Maria Lindberg has been around the Female scene for quite a while. While that isn’t really a surprise for a forty-four-year-old, Lindberg is a four-time world title challenger and was very close to securing all the belts at Super Middleweight against Ema Kozin just a couple of years ago. Despite her age, Lindberg’s hand speed still appears snappy. Unfortunately, Lindberg’s legs show her age. Hobbling around the ring like Danny Devito, Lindberg keeps herself tight and balanced but her rigour mortis footwork reveals her offensive intention before she has even thrown. While the veteran may be able to catch Marshall up close and is surprisingly sharp when backed onto the ropes, Lindberg is going to have a hell of a time trying to close the distance against her larger foe.
Predicted Result: Marshall TKO Round 8
It is never safe to call a stoppage in a Women’s fight, mostly due to the ridiculous two-minute round timers. Still, Lindberg is a forty-four veteran who practically hobbles around the ring. Although the Swede keeps herself balanced at all times and remains defensively compact, her shuffling footwork leaves her easy prey to manoeuvre around the ring. As the larger fighter, and on the back of her astute distance management against Hannah Rankin, Marshall should be able to keep Lindberg on the end of her straight shots all night. While Lindberg’s hand speed remains, and the veteran still has a few tricks to show off the ropes, once Marshall begins her onslaught to the body it will likely break her weathered opponent.
Result: Marshall def. Vargas // KO Round 3 1:11
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Rest of the Card
WBC International Silver Bantamweight Title
Alexander Espinoza (20-2-2, 8KO) vs Ukashir Farooq (14-1, 6KO)
Nicaraguan, Alexander Espinoza, has only ever fought out of his native country just once before and was unfortunate to drop a split decision to Russian prospect, Mikhail Aloyan. Aloyan was a decorated amateur, having secured bronze at the 2012 Olympics as well as gold medals in the European and World Championships. Although Aloyan has so far failed to make a splash in the professional ranks, Espinoza out-boxed the talented Russian. Not exactly a technical guru, Espinoza tucks up behind a high guard and lets opponents close the range for him. If opponents linger, they receive four-punch combinations in return. While Espinoza’s inside work is tasty, his failure to set the pace of a fight will allow better opponents to jab his face off all night.
Pakistani-born Scot, Ukashir Farooq, is best known for his slobber knocker Commonwealth/British Bantamweight title scrap with the fellow hot prospect, Lee McGregor. Although Farooq wasn’t the man to have his hand raised at the end of the fight, the Glasgow man could find himself very unlucky not to have held onto his belts. Farooq’s small stature benefits into his bobbing movement from which he throws shows with liquid flow. Oozing class in the pocket, Farooq is supremely confident on the inside and launches sustained attacks to the body. While McGregor exposed Farooq’s inability to deal with frequent clinches back in 2019, Farooq utilised a shoulder push against Angel Aviles to prevent his opponent from adopting the same tactic.
Predicted Result: Farooq Decision
This has all the markings to be a surprising banger. Espinoza proved his quality in a debatable split decision loss to the decorated Russian amateur, Mikhail Aloyan. An inside fighter through and through, Espinoza will be able to test if Farooq has ironed out his issues exhibited in the Lee McGregor fight. While Farooq prefers to launch sustained body attacks from the pocket, his exceptional head movement should prove adequate in beating Espinoza to the punch. Farooq’s use of the shoulder push last time out against Angel Aviles highlights the new maturity to Farooq’s game, playing the system in a way he was unable to against McGregor.
Result: Farooq def. Espinoza // Decision (unanimous – 95-97, 94-97, 93-97)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Women’s Bantamweight (118)
vacant WBA World Women’s Bantamweight Title
Shannon Courtenay (6-1, 3KO) vs Ebanie Bridges (5-0, 2KO)
Another Matchroom card, another Shannon Courtenay fight to cover. I’m not quite sure how defeating the 6-1 Dorota Norek is deserving of a vacant WBA World title fight, but hey ho, it’s a shallow division. Norek’s six victories came from opponent’s with a combined record of 4-15-2 (inc. two debutants). You wouldn’t know this though if you had only listened to the Matchroom narrative – raving about Courtenay’s seventh-round stoppage over a boxer who, let’s be honest, was a walking punch bag. Although I’m sure Matchroom will try their very best to secure the Rachel Ball rematch to rewrite Courtenay’s wrongs, Courtenay just isn’t the Katie Taylor-calibre fighter that they are desperate for her to be.
After a pretty entertaining fight week, Ebanie Bridges has undoubtedly earned herself a few new followers on social media. Bridges amassed a decent 26-4 amateur record, surprising for a boxer to pick up the sport so late, but has so far yet to compete at a decent level in the professional ranks. Putting aside the drooling masses though, Bridges is a limited fighter who throws barely any volume. Courtenay, at the least, pumps out a decent volume. I mean, I could write a long list on the flaws in Bridges game, but the most obvious is her tame pawing jab that she somehow manages to fall into.
Predicted Result: Courtenay TKO Round 8
Bridges has a decent 26-4 amateur record that many have gleaned over, but she has failed hard to make a splash in the professional ranks. Bridges throws almost no volume, when the hands go they look like they’re going through water, and drops her hands every time in the pocket. Courtenay, for as much as I think she is a Matchroom hype job, is technically far superior. With two-minute rounds it’s tricky to predict stoppages, but Courtenay throws caution to the wind when chasing a finish and may likely force the referee to intervene.
Result: Courtenay def. Bridges // Decision (unanimous – 97-94, 98-92, 98-92)
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Nick Campbell (DEBUT) vs Petr Frohlich (2-30-1, 1KO)
Former Scottish rugby player, Nick Campbell, will be making his debut at thirty-one years old. A gigantic 6’7″ frame, as well as an 11-4 amateur record (including the Scottish Super-Heavyweight title), indicates that Campbell may have the talent to cause a bit of ruckus in the domestic scene. In the amateurs, Campbell did smother his work at times and swatted rather than snapped his punches, but it’s to be expected of a fighter with such a late transition.
Crikey. What an unfortunate career. Being a journeyman is always tough for the ol’ noggin, but at Heavyweight too? Flabby for the weight, Frohlich looks to give fighters good rounds under their belt early in their careers. Two-shot arm punches make sure Frohlich doesn’t force the referee to stop it, but there isn’t much danger from Frohlich.
Predicted Result: Campbell TKO Round 4
Frohlich is a journeyman around the 200lbs mark that is fighting well above his natural weight. Despite rugby pro turned boxer, Nick Campbell, only having a short amateur spree, this should still be an easy nights work for the Scotsman. For Hearn to make the fight a six-rounder indicates his desires for Campbell to get an early KO on his record. Reviewing amateur footage indicates major issues in Campbell’s game (smothering his work, swatting with arm punches, raised chin upon finishing combinations) but it’s to be expected from a late transition.
Result: Campbell def. Frohlich // TKO Round 2 0:41
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌
Light Heavyweight (175)
John Hedges (1-0) vs Stanko Jermelic (0-5)
Failing to impress down at Super Middleweight on his debut, the giant 6’5″ 18-year-old baby John Hedges, aims to try his hand at Light Heavyweight. Despite his delusion about winning his debut, it was in fact an Ian John-Lewis scorecard masterclass that gave the young lad an early Matchroom-sponsored victory. Unable to control the range with his freak reach, Hedges was perhaps not ready for the speed and power that the adults bring.
A 2-4 fighter was too much of a risk for Hearn’s liking, so better wheel out a 0-5 Croat who has lost never won a round in his professional career. It was difficult but a found a couple of Jermelic’s fights on dodgy hosting sites. Jermelic is a gun shy counter puncher who just seems unable to make a read on opponents. His check left hook is semi tasty, but he has to reset himself every time he is jabbed – by which point he is jabbed again.
Predicted Result: Hedges Decision
Debut disaster or not, the giant 6’5″ 18-year-old prospect John Hedges will be far too good for Stanko Jermelic, a fighter who has never won a round in his professional career. Somehow managing to find Stanko Jermelic tape to review, he is a gun-shy counter puncher who is completely thrown off rhythm by the lightest of jabs, If Hedges can’t steamroll this fight then he needn’t be wheeled out by Matchroom again.
Result: Hedges def. Jermelic // Decision (referee’s scorecard – 40-36)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Matchroom: Benn vs Vargas
2021 Boxing Season
Takeaway comments: Can we please get Kelly vs Benn and Marshall vs Shields organised ASAP?
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