Promoter Eddie Hearn believes that Conor Benn is now a world class welterweight and hopes to match the Ilford banger with Sunderland rival Josh Kelly in an intriguing tussle in 2021.

First, Benn (16-0, 11 KOs) faces the toughest test of his career when he meets highly capable German Sebastian Formella (22-1, 10 KOs) at the SSE Arena in Wembley on Saturday night. 

Many were swift to write off Benn’s chances of emulating his famous father Nigel as a world champion after an unconvincing start to his professional career. But Benn, 24, has developed rapidly over the last four years under the guidance of trainer Tony Sims and even Hearn admits he has been surprised by the Essex puncher’s progression.

“I can’t believe the improvements he has made because I wasn’t sure that he would be good enough. But he is!” Hearn told Sky Sports. “Formella went 12 rounds with Shawn Porter, firing back, taking chances, he has a great chin.”

Hearn is planning to match Benn with the stylish Kelly (10-0-1, 6 KOs) in 2021, should the Sunderland man emerge from a tough assignment against dangerous European champion David Avanesyan in a frequently postponed but still scheduled encounter without a fight date.

“Kelly will fight David Avanesyan, which is an incredible fight,” added Hearn. “Kelly has the pedigree – he may be a world-class welterweight but he has to prove it. Benn has come from nowhere. I remember watching his debut thinking: ‘Blimey!’ Poor kid was 19 and we slung him out in front of 20,000 people at The O2! He works so hard to make the improvements he has made.

“This is Benn’s coming out fight. He can be a big star. If he can beat Formella, and do it in style, and if Kelly beats Avanesyan? That is a monstrous fight for 2021.

“Six months ago, I would have said Kelly was a huge favourite. But let’s see Benn against Formella. Fight fans may say it’s a 50-50 match-up.

“Both guys have a huge future. Benn is a star. He has the benefit of his name and the legacy of his father. He has worked tirelessly to improve. But he hasn’t boxed for over a year and he is going into the toughest fight of his career.”