Conor Benn gambled and won. The Ilford welter banked on his rapid improvement being too much for Hamburg’s seasoned Sebastian Formella and was proved correct in that assumption, showing silkiness and spite in an impressive 10-round decision victory at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday night,
Scores were 100-91, 99-91 and 99-92 as Benn widely outpointed a former IBO title-holder who had, as we all know, lasted the course with elite 147-pounder Shawn Porter in his previous contest.
After his career-best victory, a bristling Benn called for a fight with Sunderland’s unbeaten Josh Kelly, a match that shouldn’t be too difficult to make given their shared affiliation with Matchroom Boxing though promoter Eddie Hearn already has pound signs in his eyes.
“I’m only interested in one fight – Josh Kelly,” growled Benn afterwards. “Forget the other guys calling me out. Do I look like a scared fighter?”
The son of Nigel is unrecognisable from the swinging novice of four years ago and, in the eyes of many, is now probably ahead of Kelly in the welterweight pecking order. That would have seemed inconceivable two years ago. Benn’s trainer Tony Sims deserves considerable credit.
Benn looked sharp, purposeful from the offset, slipping shots and dishing out hurtful blows to the body early as Formella sought to establish his jab. The German winced after a left hook in the second and there were ‘oohs’ uttered by the few in attendance after the Ilford puncher unloaded a sweet right hand in another destructive sortie.
Behind a snapping jab, Benn was fast and incisive. His elbow went in during the third and drew a break and a warning from referee Steve Gray, but he was prevailing by legal means. Formella’s nose was bleeding heavily at this point as Benn punctured him with variety.
Benn (17-0, 11 KOs) unleashed a thudding right hand in the fourth as it started to look a matter not of whether he would win, but if Formella would be able to last the course. The dogged German dug in and clawed back some ground with a late burst at the end of the sixth.
A touch of fatigue had creeped in for Benn after his earlier exertions, but Formella’s left eye was swelling in the eighth as the Brit belaboured him to the body. Formella (22-2, 10 KOs) dipped after taking some big left hooks in the ninth as Benn cranked up the pressure.
Yet Formella once more illustrated that he can certainly take a shot and showed commendable grit to hear the bell. Benn’s rise continues.
Ipswich heavy Fabio Wardley (10-0, 9 KOs) wanted to test himself against a higher level of opposition and passed that examination with ease, blowing out experienced Ghanaian Richard Lartey (14-4, 11 KOs) in the second round.
Lartey’s elaborate (okay, gratuitous) ring walk lasted as long as the fight. Once the bell rang, the visitor tried to pressure Wardley with his feet as the Ipswich man looked relaxed and measured, behind a smooth jab.
Yet the end came out of the blue. In the second, after unleashing a sturdy jab, Wardley detonated a big right hand to the temple that sent Lartey crashing to the deck with no hope (or intention) of recovery. Perhaps Lartey didn’t fancy it, but Victor Loughlin immediately waved it off. The charismatic Wardley moves up another notch to a final destination unknown.
Croatia’s hell-for-leather heavyweight Alen Babic (6-0, 6 KOs) overwhelmed Hatfield’s Tom Little (10-9, 3 KOs) with another whirlwind-like finish inside three rounds.
The crude but aggressive Babic flew out of the blocks, but Little stood firm and was firing back by the end of a brisk opening round. Babic’s shots became increasingly wild, but a left hook to the body made Little back off as the Croatian’s relentless, route one approach eventually told in this raw and rugged encounter.
The sheer volume and persistence of Babic won out. A thudding right hand dropped Little in the third before a trio of left hooks scored another knockdown when referee Bob Williams stepped in.
Donnington’s Liam Davies (8-0, 3 KOs) showed real promise with a sharp dissection of capable Liverpool southpaw Sean Cairns to claim the vacant English bantamweight crown.
“I’m going to take this to my grandad’s grave tomorrow morning. Tonight, I felt like I found my worth,” an emotional Davies told Sky Sports’ Andy Scott afterwards.
Davies immediately found his groove, impressing with right hands down the pipe and, by the second, he was reeling off fluid combinations. Cairns (7-3, 1 KOs) was competitive early, including some neat body work, but Davies mastered the range and picked him off with his superior timing and accuracy.
Brave but outgunned, Cairns looked ragged by the sixth as he shipped hefty left hooks and a flush right hand that swivelled his head as he toiled under increasing duress. At the end of the round, Cairns was sensibly withdrawn by his corner. Davies caught the eye.
Harrow Weald’s Jez Smith (12-2-1, 5 KOs) took the unbeaten record of Bury’s Ben Ridings (3-1, 0 KOs) with an accomplished display in a super-middleweight six-rounder. Referee Bob Williams scored 60-54.
Smith, fighting over his natural weight at five days’ notice, was the more canny, well-schooled fighter, dictating with an educated jab and elegant footwork. Ridings chugged forward in straight lines and hoped that his pressure would tell, but Smith read him fairly easily.
Ridings, his nose bloodied, was chasing shadows for the most part. It was a step up too early. The talented Smith has a bit of impetus now and, if he can match that with commitment, he may have a part to play at his natural weight of 154lbs.
Main image: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.