ORLANDO – Conor Benn ended the longest layoff and most troubling portion with a win over a game opponent.
The second-generation English boxer pounded out a dominant ten-round, unanimous decision over a brave Rodolfo Orozco. Scores of 99-91, 99-91 and a surprisingly close 96-94 went in favor of Benn in just his second stateside fight in their DAZN-aired co-feature Saturday from Caribe Royale Orlando in Orlando, Florida.
Benn connected with a right hand early in the opening round, his first significant landed punch since his second-round stoppage of Chris van Heerden last April 16 in Manchester, England. The Ilford native didn’t show any signs of ring rust, or worry over the year-long drug testing scandal that led to a canceled fight with Chris Eubank Jr. and his career-long 17-month ring absence.
Saturday’s return came at middleweight, the first for Benn who normally campaigns at welterweight. Orozco didn’t have anything to slow down Benn. The come-forward style of the 24-year-old from Guasave was tailor made for even a career-heaviest version of Benn, who landed a right hand up top and a left hook up and under Orozco’s guard.
Benn remained dialed in with his right hand over the top, which frequently landed in the second. Orozco failed to defend against it and also had to deal with a cut along his right eyebrow as blood streamed down the side of his face. Benn rode out a brief charge by Orozco and used his jab to control the tempo for the rest of the round.
A one-two by Orozco early in the third was countered by an overhand right by Benn early in round three. Sweat bounced off Orozco’s head as he struggled to regroup. Benn continued on the attack and pinned Orozco along the ropes. Orozco attempted to come forward, but Benn drew him in and landed a right uppercut. Orozco stood his ground even as he failed to produce any real offensive success.
The natural aggression of Orozco was enough to carry him through round five. Benn’s offense appeared to slow as he relied on movement and defense to evade most of Orozco’s punches.
Orozco landed a body shot early in the sixth. Benn shook off the blow and responded with a light flurry of shots downstairs. Both fighters landed right hands late in the round. Orozco offered one last flurry before the bell, then pawed at the blood surrounding his right eye.
Modest chants of ‘Me-Xi-Co’ were belted out at the start of round seven, shortly after the playing of ‘Cielito Lindo’ in honor of Orozco’s heritage. It didn’t result in any sustained success for the Mexican boxer. Benn was content to fight behind his jab and the occasional long right hand to the body as the pace continued to slow over the second half.
Benn put forth a more potent attack in round eight. A left hook to the body landed for the Brit, though it didn’t deter Orozco from coming forward. Benn came back with a flicking left hook upstairs, and later landed a right hand followed by slick head movement to avoid a counter.
Orozco missed wildly with a right hand that caused him to pitch forward into the ropes. The sequence was correctly ruled a slip, as well as when Benn briefly lost his footing from the slick center ring logo. Benn unloaded his offense in the final minute, beginning with a right hand to Orozco’s seemingly undentable chin. An ensuing volley by Benn forced Orozco to cover up as he was backed into the ropes but survived the onslaught and made it to the bell.
Benn landed a left hook in round four and later connected with a right hand. Orozco’s only appeal was to show a sturdy chin, as he never came close to folding on either occasion or during any moment to that point in the fight.
Orozco (32-4-2, 23KOs) ended a modest two-fight win streak but figures to field several phone calls with his brave effort. The fight was his first in the U.S. and on a platform that didn’t require an obscure streaming schedule from former boxing super fan Tim Boxeo.
Benn (22-0. 14KOs) was able to get in rounds given the lengthy ring absence, though when and where he returns remains unclear.
Saturday’s appearance came with the blessing of the Florida Athletic Commission, where Benn is licensed as well as in Texas. He remains unlicensed in the UK. The July 28 ruling from the National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP) noted that Benn was no longer provisionally suspended, though the decision has been appealed by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) and United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) agency.
The ongoing matter only affected his ability to fight in the U.S. in that Benn was required to submit a clean drug-testing sample per WADA-accredited out-of-competition standards. As much was submitted by Benn, who was subsequently greenlighted by the Association of Boxing Commissions to continue his career—at least in the U.S., where he fights for just the second time.
Benn was also subject to a drug test before Saturday’s bout as well as post-fight, both which will exceed the modest state commission testing standard.
Headlining the show, Brooklyn’s Richardson Hitchins (16-0, 7KOs)—a 2016 Olympian for Haiti and rising contender—and former title challenger Jose Zepeda (37-3, 28KOs; 2NC) meet in a scheduled 12-round junior welterweight bout.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox