Conor Benn produces an astonishing performance to stop Samuel Vargas early and then asks for a ’real test’ against Amir Khan
Conor Benn’s match with Samuel Vargas, the 12-round headline fight on this Matchroom show at the Copper Box Arena, looked every bit an example of quality matchmaking. Coming off a career-best performance against the talented but outgunned Sebastian Formella, the son of legendary Nigel Benn needed an opponent who could offer him rounds and represented a recognisable name in the US, sensible given most of the top welterweights are based there.
For a bonus point, aggressive Canadian-Colombian Vargas was a familiar face to UK viewers, having dropped Amir Khan en route to defeat, ultimately losing gallantly as he had against every top-level opponent he’d met, including Danny Garcia, Errol Spence and most recently Vergil Ortiz Jr. He seemed likely to at least give the younger man rounds and problems to be solved, but Benn made the most of the opportunity, dishing out a first-round shellacking, including a couple of huge right hands, that forced the referee to rescue Vargas and saw Conor score a quicker stoppage than any of the aforementioned trio. It was all over in 80 seconds!
Vargas tried to roll under Benn’s stiff jab early on and land to the body, but Benn was forceful and followed his lead with rights and uppercuts. Once he hurt his prey, Benn proved an excellent finisher.
Benn turned pro young, with limited amateur experience, and is still just 24. Matchroom and his trainer Tony Sims have done a masterful job in bringing him on slowly and developing his initially raw abilities. Explosive, ruthless performances like this, against usually durable opposition, will make it harder than ever to hold Benn back. The man himself called out Amir Khan after the fight, saying he wants "a real test".
The chief support saw Savannah Marshall make a successful first defence of the WBO middleweight title, with a over one-week replacement challenger Maria Lindberg, who while a solid fighter had not competed for over a year and was giving away 4 1/2lbs in weight and 15 years in age.
Lindberg, 44, subbed in for Femke Hermans, whose trainer tested positive for Covid-19. She was brave but outclassed and overpowered by Marshall, who looked every inch one of the finest female fighters in the world. Two knockdowns and a beating later, Lindberg sat out the full count in round three.