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Conor Benn vs Sebastian Formella: Brit proves worthy of headline status

Conor Benn produces a complete performance against tough Sebastian Formella, while Fabio Wardley delivers a scary KO in the chief support

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Conor Benn vs Sebastian Formella (Mark Robinson/Matchroom)
Conor Benn vs Sebastian Formella (Mark Robinson/Matchroom)

It wasn’t planned but perhaps it was meant to be. Conor Benn, the 16-0 welterweight, became a main eventer for the first time tonight predominantly because Alexander Povetkin caught a bad case of Covid-19 and his rematch with Dillian Whyte was postponed until January. The Sky Sports Box Office show the heavyweights were set to headline was consequently made into a non-ppv show with Benn, who was, following over a year out, stepping up on the undercard against Germany’s talented and durable Sebastian Formella, now taking top billing. The 24-year-old rose to the occasion, producing his most complete performance to date against, on paper, his finest foe.

Despite, or maybe due to, being the much-hyped son of ‘90s legend Nigel Benn, Conor has long been desperate to distinguish himself, both generally and from his famous father. A late starter who had only 20 amateur bouts in Australia, where his family lived during Conor’s teenage years, Benn memorably struggled through an early test against Cedrick Peynaud. However, moulded by esteemed trainer Tony Sims in Essex, Conor had improved leaps and bounds since adding guile and versatility to his obvious athletic gifts.

Formella marked the latest in a gradually increasing level of opposition. The port worker from Hamburg is a former long-time amateur and IBO champion who had fought, and beaten, far better opponents than those Benn had vanquished. He was outworked and outclassed by ex-world champ Shawn Porter in the US in August, losing every round, but stayed on his feet and will have learned a huge amount from the painful experience.

The 10-rounder began at a brisk pace. Formella tried to establish his jab but Benn, his face a mask of concentration, rolled under to land sharp hooks to head and body. The German was accurate if less active, but Benn’s head movement was exemplary. The pressure Conor applied with his feet compelled Formella into a reactive mindset.

Benn used his jab very effectively, as a range finder, set-up tool and weapon in its own right. Formela landed some nice left hook counters but did not appear to be a puncher. Benn was banking rounds but remained relaxed, not becoming greedy or desperate for a stoppage. By the halfway point, Formella looked content to survive.

Sebastian came forward more in round six, connecting with some good right hands, but took a big one in return as the bell went. The Brit often employed a potent three-punch combination, with a right over the top, left to the body, finishing on the jab. He got hit a little more as he tried to force Formella to engage, but overall this was a dominant, impressive display.

 

Formella was marked up and ragged by the later rounds and Benn could have gone looking for the finish, maybe been caught with something stupid. Instead, he worked sparingly and continued the process of breaking his brave opponent down. Benn cruised to the final bell, taking a never-in-doubt unanimous decision with scores of 100-91, 99-91 and 99-92.

 

Hopefully a shot at the British title will come next year for Benn who, if not quite out of his father’s enormous shadow, has at least earned the limelight in which he now basks.

In the 10-round chief support, English champion Fabio Wardley became the second Dillian Whyte-managed heavyweight to win inside schedule on the bill, following in the footsteps of Alen Babic. Up against a known and usually durable quantity in Ghana’s “Son of the Eagle” Richard Lartey, who had lost a four-round firefight to Daniel Dubois but returned to these shores and took Nathan Gorman the distance, Wardley sensibly moved laterally and picked his shots sparingly in the early stages.

In round two however, the ending came from out of nowhere. A stiff jab pushed Lartey back, then a quick left hook-right hook, the latter landing on the temple, wiped him out. Lartey was tended to for some time after the finish, given oxygen and helped to a stool. Wardley is now 10-0 (9) and very much in the mix for the British title if and when the winner of next week’s Dubois vs Joe Joyce showdown vacates.

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