The announcement that Conor Benn will challenge Chris Eubank at the O2 Arena on October 8 sent – for the most part – a thrilling shock through British boxing.
Sons of legends, one of the nation’s great sporting grudges, pangs of nostalgia and an intriguing fight have created a potent concoction of hope and expectation ahead of the huge domestic clash.
For some, it’s a welterweight against a middleweight but the kicker is it’s for heavyweight money and that’s why the fight is on.
Both believe they can win, too.
Eubank is the bigger man but he must come down to 157 for the catchweight clash, so both are making sacrifices, Benn moving up and Eubank having to cut.
There’s also a rehydration clause so Eubank won’t be able to balloon unreasonably and come in oversized on fight night.
But regardless of the details, it’s a fight that has captured the imagination and when it was announced on Tuesday, the phone of Benn’s trainer Tony Sims lit up.
“I don’t think there’s been a fight like this since the first Eubank-Benn fight because I think the only fight that could top this is the [Tyson] Fury-[Anthony] Joshua fight,” Sims said. “If you’re looking at actual names on fights in the country, there aren’t any bigger names than Benn and Eubank.”
While the Eubank contest has been mooted and seemingly been on and off for a while, it only really got momentum this year. Until it was mentioned, all eyes in team Benn were focused upon a world title and the biggest names at 147. Contenders and former champions from Kell Brook to Mikey Garcia and Keith Thurman were in the picture, but the Eubank fight is where the money is.
“A fight’s a fight and Conor Benn feels confident he’s going to win the fight,” Sims continued. “I’m sure Chris Eubank is too, so it’s a fight for all the ages and anyone who was around in the Benn and Eubank era in the 1990s, and obviously I was, we will be engaged with this fight.”
Tony wasn’t just around then, he used to spar Benn all those years ago and now he’s been entrusted with coaching and developing Nigel’s son. Sims admits this contest came out a little from left field, even for him.
“I thought the Thurman fight was going to be done and that was the fight we were working towards,” Tony admitted. “This was talked about a couple of months back but I never thought it would come to fruition, because of the weights and that. I didn’t think Eubank would make that weight for a start, but he feels fully comfortable he can make the 157 and do the rehydration clause the next day, so that’s what really brought the fight to light, because Conor can easily move up to 154 no problem at all. Eubank’s got to make 157,
Conor’s going to probably come in at 154, so there’s probably going to be a 3lbs difference and there will be a rehydration clause on the next day. And that clause isn’t going to be early in the morning, so it won’t be a massive difference. Whether Eubank can get down to the weight is another thing.”
It's a big difference, and the fight has had opposition from some who won’t look beyond the weights, and they fear for Benn. Some have been critical about Benn’s matchmaking in the past, too, and they’ve wanted him to be in sterner tests. Now some are saying this is too stern.
“We were working towards a world title fight,” Sims went on. “The next fight would have been a big one against the likes of Thurman or whoever was being thrown into the mix, but you’ve got to think, fighters do this for money at the end of the day. They don’t just do this for fun. And the money for this fight tops anything else that you could possibly put in front of him. That’s obviously a big factor. You’re talking about the sort of money that heavyweight champions get, so that has to be a massive factor as well.”
As far as the contest itself is concerned, many think the attacking force of Benn against the larger Eubank will lead to fireworks and Sims envisages something explosive.
“I think it will be,” Sims concluded. “Conor’s ultra-confident he can beat Chris. He’s watched Chris’s last few fights and after each fight he’s rung me and said, ‘If I ever get to fight Chris Eubank, I can definitely beat him.’ Obviously it was always out of the picture because of the weight, but if Eubank can get down to 157, that’s the fight on the line.”