Ricky Hatton knows a thing or two about carrying the fighting hopes of British boxing, and Manchester’s ‘Hitman’, one of the island’s most popular ever fighters, believes welterweight Conor Benn can be the next man to capture the nation’s imagination.
When Benn turned professional five years ago with little amateur experience, he looked a raw, but willing novice destined to be an undercard novelty act on the back of his celebrated father Nigel’s name.
But under the terrific Tony Sims, Benn (18-0, 12 KOs) has undergone a remarkable transformation from pretender to contender. After blitzing the solid Samuel Vargas in one round in April, Benn called out former world champions Shawn Porter, Adrien Broner and Amir Khan, and Hatton believes the Ilford puncher will prove a major draw in the years to come.
“I think Conor Benn is Great Britain’s next big star. I think he went a bit OTT in his last interview after beating Samuel Vargas, he seemed to be having a go at the whole world! But that’s the passion Conor brings, not just in his fighting but his whole attitude,” Hatton told Metro.
“When he first kicked on with his career, he had to put up with people saying ‘he is only here because of his dad’, or he’s never going to do this or he is never going to do that. He was underperforming a little bit so people got on his back. But he stayed at it, stayed dedicated in the gym listening to his team and his last performance was the best of his career.
“Nobody will tell me that performance wasn’t world class. He was aggressive, he was explosive, but he was in control. He knew where every punch was going. It was pure world class. Conor knew what he had in him and it all came out together on one night. I think that is why he lashed out a bit after. A few people have said to me, ‘Conor Benn, he seems a bit big-headed’. But he’s the complete opposite.
“Yes, there was a bit of frustration because of the stick he has been given when he was coming through the ranks and now everyone wants to kiss his arse! But it was just frustration in Conor’s defence.
“His last opponent was a dangerous opponent and he’s picked another one here for Matchroom Fight Camp in Adrian Granados who has been in with Robert Easter Jr, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Adrien Broner. He’s not only taken criticism on board and kept in the gym to improve, he is picking dangerous opponents now. I like to think the days of when people were on his back are well behind us. You’ve got to pat him on the back.”