IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston unearths the betting value in this weekend’s intriguing step up for Conor Benn against the more seasoned and battle-tested Sebastian Formella.
I like Benn in this fight. He’s younger, faster and more explosive. Formella is a cute boxer and durable but he doesn’t have a lot of power and while he went 12 rounds with Shawn Porter in his last fight he didn’t win a round.
Benn, 24, has made rapid strides. He was a hard hitting but raw fighter when he made his pro debut four-and-a-half years ago. The son of British boxing legend Nigel Benn is now emerging from his father’s shadow. Formella is a serious test, though.
If Benn wins, we can consider him a world-class fighter. I don’t think many people would have thought this was possible after Benn’s desperate battle with Cedrick Peynaud three years ago when the British prospect was dropped twice and finished with both eyes swollen.
However, Benn showed real fighting guts against Peynaud. He came back from a terrible opening round to score two knockdowns of his own. It was a close contest but Benn deserved the win. He showed his improvement when he comfortably outpointed Peynaud in a rematch seven months later.
Benn seems to have a lot of natural ability and he’s proved to be a quick learner. In his last two fights Benn has looked quite formidable, blowing out Finland’s Jussi Koivula in two rounds and crushing Belgium’s Steve Jamoye in the fourth. These were seasoned boxers, but Benn stormed right through them.
Formella, 33, built up a nice 22-0 record in his native Germany before losing to Porter in the US. His best performance was a unanimous 12-round decision over the South African Thulani Mbenge, who was unbeaten going into the fight. Formella did an excellent job of hitting and moving, making Mbenge miss and peppering his taller opponent with quick punches. However, it seemed to me that Mbenge was loading up too much, looking to land bombs. Formella’s movement frustrated him.
The Hamburg crowd was right behind Formella in the Mbenge fight, roaring him on. It’s possible he drew energy from the crowd, whereas the fight with Benn will be in a studio-type setting at the SSE Arena at Wembley.
Benn promises to make a statement. We hear this sort of thing all the time but Benn sounds believable.
Formella can be a real problem for fighters who try to nail him with big, clear shots, such as Mbenge and the Nicaraguan welterweight Roberto Arriaza. It seems the way to beat Formella is to keep on top of him, throwing fast punches rather than looking for a home run, and jabbing on the way in. I think Benn has it in him to fight this sort of fight.
In the training video I watched, Benn seems to be focusing on moving forward at a fast clip, using head movement as he closes the range. That’s what he must do in this fight. He can’t allow Formella to get his jab working. Benn must either slip the jab and fire off compact punches from medium and close range or he must use his own jab to negate Formella’s left-hand stabs.
This has the look of a fight that will go the full 12 rounds and it could be difficult at times for Benn because he will be made to miss and he is going to have to eat some jabs. But Benn is the puncher in the fight and even if he doesn’t manage to hurt Formella significantly or knock him down he has the authority in his punches to keep the German boxer thinking defensively.
Benn’s tearful interview with Sky Sports, when he talked of missing his family while in training, might have raised some eyebrows but I don’t read too much into this. If you remember, Teofimo Lopez similarly showed emotion when interviewed on ESPN before his fight with Vasily Lomachenko but everything was all right on the night. The days when men were expected to show a stiff upper lip are long gone.
I respect Formella, but I think Benn’s fast pressure, harder punching and sheer energy will get the British fighter through with a win on the judges’ scorecards.
If you fancy Formella to win, the odds have moved in your favour. The German boxer is offered at 15/8 (+187) at Betfred.
For those who like Benn to win, as I do, there are a few ways to play the fight. Benn to win by decision at 11/10 (+110) makes sense.
If you think that Benn just might be able to get to Formella with the sort of punches that could end the fight you will no doubt be interested in the 7/2 (+350) about Benn winning by KO TKO DQ.
Not sure who will win but expect the fight to go the full 12 rounds? “Fight to go the distance” looks like a good bet but the entrance price is high at 4/11 (-275).
Of all the betting options available, the one I prefer is Benn to win by decision. Formella was able to go 12 rounds with Shawn Porter, one of the world’s top 147-pounders, so it would be a sensational performance for Benn to stop the visitor. For backers of the decision proposition, a Benn win on the judges’ scorecards would do very nicely, thank you.
Main image and all photos: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.