Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Conor Benn returns to action at Bethnal Green’s York Hall on Friday night, defending his WBA Continental Welterweight title against Finland’s Jussi Koivula.
This fight represents a step up in class for Matchroom’s Benn, who will be conceding height and reach advantage, as well as 13 years of professional experience. At 35, Koivula boasts a 24-6-1 record, is a three-time European title challenger and has shared the ring with venerable opponents, Samuel Vargas (29-4-2) and Leonard Bundu (33-2-2).
“I can win this fight because of my experience,” Koivula said during Wednesday’s press conference, correctly and matter-of-factly.
Benn, on the contrary is still in the infancy of his career. Unbeaten in 14 fights, he boasts the same number of collective knockouts as Koivula (nine); and enters the fight on the back of an eight-round-points-victory over Czech Republic’s Josef Zahradnik. That fight was a welcome return following an injury lay off, but it is the two exacting fights Benn contested previously with France’s Cedrick Peynaud that have led to questions over his possible defensive frailties. In their first fight, Benn was dropped to the canvas twice in the first round before going onto to win that fight and the rematch on points.
“Yeh, I had a hard fight with that Peynaud. He’s just beat someone who’s had 16 fights and lost one. He’s just beat him. Who would have thought? That’s a reality check for me and thank you he hasn’t cost me my 0. I went back to the drawing board and I learned, and this time I plan on displaying something else,” Benn said, looking to contextualise the difficulties he faced, whilst distancing himself from them and choosing instead to focus on highlighting his subsequent improvements and development.
Indeed, victory here would show us something else. It would show us both progression within the ring and display a maturing ability to handle the external pressures and responsibility of promoting and publicising a card upon which he features as a premier attraction.
For a fighter who is as marketable and exciting as Conor Benn, but who has drawn criticism over perceived technical inadequacies, stalled development, handpicked opponents and his longer-term, higher level credentials, victory here would also support the enduring faith and investment that Matchroom have showed in him.
This may be only his fifteenth fight, but already the stakes are high. Conor Benn, over to you.