Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Conor Benn beats Sebastian Formella by unanimous decision, though boxing is now in ruinous corporate decline, so argues ESBR's senior staff writer, Elliott Grigg.
Conor Benn stepped up in impressive fashion to become the WBA continental welterweight champion last night, unanimously outpointing the game and durable Sebastian Formella.
In what was considered to be a significant escalation in class, Benn looked sharp, focused and mature during the first half of the fight, his left hook to the body being the standout shot, and one which was landing with unmitigated success.
Esteemed boxing analyst Steve Farhood once elaborated on the perils of heralding a fighter whose most salient performance was a loss. Formella seemed, in hindsight, to fit this category, having been backed heavily in some quarters and outpointed as recently as August by former WBC and IBF welterweight champion, Shawn Porter.
Noticeably, he landed cleanly on Benn’s chin several times throughout the fight but lacked any real power to move the Essex man, or even to mark his face.
In the second half of the fight, tiring slightly and perhaps now turning his thoughts to a stoppage victory, Benn reverted to type, somewhat, abandoning the earlier precision of his footwork and the shrewd, tactical approach of working from the sharpness of his jab, to instead plant his feet and arrow in spiteful hooks from telegraphable angles. With less disguise and guile, Formella was able to evade many of these and rarely looked unduly troubled, even when they landed. In fact, the blood which dribbled from his nose for the majority of the fight was caused by an accidental clash of heads in the third round.
The fight moved into the latter stages, where many questioned whether Benn would have the patience or stamina to resist Formella, who in turn would have been hoping to take Benn into these exhaustive stages (only once before has Benn been required to fight beyond 8 rounds), with the view to outclassing and outpointing him down the stretch.
Though the latter half of the fight mirrored the pattern already described: a comparatively wilder Benn chasing a knockout, and a durable Formella landing with punches which were lacking in any definitive venom.
The final scorecards read 99-91, 99-92 and 100-91 to Benn, and in this rare instance they were entirely creditable. Though there will be undoubtedly be tougher challenges ahead for Conor Benn, he deserves respect for the showing he put on tonight, for negotiating and handling the prefight pressure – which was understandably present – and for delivering a measured performance which showcased that he has certainly improved as a fighter. It must also be noted that this fight was also an example of shrewd matchmaking, as a ten-round fight against a resilient opponent with ineffectual punching power will progress Conor far better than an overwhelming victory against a journeyman or a limited and soon forgotten domestic opponent.
Though, before I depart, just a final reflection on the overall show. Professional boxing has always been capitalist in its elemental nature. But unlike early capitalism, with its wild greed and its dreams of marrying profit to service, its itch for exploitation and its nose for growth – that quickness to cheat aligned with a sense of solid procedure, a gambling man’s love of destiny combined with the workman’s love of tools – boxing has transcended now into the realms of corporate capitalism, which, above anything, seemingly detests the earlier contradictions inherent in its predecessor, and to which this card was indisputably emblematic of.
Yes, within corporate capitalism there remains the partnership of huge profit with huge service, yet in the case of the large corporate relationships, exampled between Matchroom, DAZN and Sky, once any committee decision has been made, there is no further contradiction to be had. There is only the desire to make profit for the corporation, whilst also removing problems and heartache from their business, to subdue criticism and contradictory ideologies from elsewhere, and to annihilate all irrationality and inefficiency from their practice.
It is as a result of this impossible to achieve credo that we now live in a boxing culture where those with influence refuse to listen to feedback from outsiders (take Steve Bunce’s embarrassing critique of Martin @NewAgeBoxings reasoned suggestion as to why boxing recently received no governmental emergency funding); where we pay increasing fees for inferior products (well-matched fights carry risk and therefore inefficiency in building and managing fighters), and to why money which used to be used on paying fighters and delivering competitive, entertaining cards, is now being spent instead on the advertising of these mediocre presentations.
It is also for this reason that those on the inside of this machine often try and appeal to reason in explaining their methods yet lie every time they open their mouths, as well as the reason as to why the majority of pundits, analysts and commentators have the hearty, hollow manner of corporate men seemingly stuck on the inside of a drum – for they are obliged and expected to continually make positive statements about these products/cards, when in reality these events have become increasingly indefensible, and so consequently and concurrently as the mouthpieces employed to promote and support them, they, in turn, thus appear risibly grotesque and parodic. (Though this calculated and outlandish behaviour, no doubt, also drives #views and #interactions, and so is understandable, to a degree; people must just be on guard to see it for what it is: an amoral and cynical way of having those who wrongly choose to interact with it indirectly shoulder some of the advertising, or emerge in corporate boardrooms as anonymous 'units of engagement', who can support increasing conventional advertising streams.)
How does this relate to tonight's show? you may still be wondering. Well, tonight we had to hear how Wardley’s victory was emphatic. Sky described it as a ‘stunning, one-punch KO’, when in reality, Lartey’s fall, an incongruous result from having evidently partially blocked the punch that dropped him, looked very suspect. I am not here accusing the outcome of being a fix, only that the reality of that fight ending did not match the corporate post-fight marketing proclamations, and their use in implying and positioning Wardley (their product) as being superior to British heavyweight Daniel Dubois (who took four rounds to stop Lartey).
Similarly, beforehand, Babic vs Little was advertised as a tough challenge for Babic, a competitive fight which could outcome either way, when in truth the only competitive fight on the card all along was the main event. I have no dislike of Babic, and I understand that he is a fun fighter to watch, but the gimmicky marketing and inflation of his current ability and status is yet also further example of corporate overselling; and when there are heavyweights currently more advanced and talented - products of greater quality than Babic, who is still only a (now) 6-0 prospect - not getting an opportunity or appearing on televised shows, it is not only us as consumers who suffer, having to endure a lesser showpiece, but also the greater integrity of the sport.
Throw into the mix some of the commentary and analysis given in relation to both of these aforementioned fights, from people whom shall remain nameless but who really ought to know better (the previously described men inside of the drum), and the whole occasion merely degraded into an evening of high farce.
In fact, perhaps the only way to enjoy boxing anymore is to only watch fights where both fighters have a vested interest in winning; and when you do watch them, to watch them on mute and to stay away from all forms of social media.
Anyhow, that said, well done to Conor Benn, and let’s try to recover from tonight in time for next week’s show.