Conor Benn defends his WBA Continental Welterweight title for a fourth time, and it’s another gradual step up in class as he meets ten stone seven gatekeeper Samuel Vargas over ten rounds at the Copper Box Arena, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN worldwide.
Benn (17-0, 11 KOs) is still only 24, but the comparisons to his illustrious father Nigel have resulted in a lot of expectation placed on him ahead of his clash with Vargas (31-6-2, 14 KOs)
‘The Destroyer’ has been matched well so far in a 17 fight career that began in April 2016, and his only real scare came in a December 2017 six round thriller with Cedrick Peynaud, where he was down twice in the opener, before rallying to drop Peynaud in rounds five and six to secure a disputed points win.
Benn put the record straight in a rematch over ten in July, taking the vacant belt he now holds in a dominant points win. The Essex native was last out in November 2020, and put in arguably a career best performance in routing Sebastian Formella on the scorecards.
Vargas is certainly no pushover, but the Canada-based Colombian has had a long, hard career with his contest with Benn set to be his 40th at just 31-years-old.
He is 2-3-1 in his last six outings, and is best known on these shores for a spirited September 2018 effort in Birmingham against Amir Khan, where he dropped the Bolton man, but was floored twice himself on the way to a wide defeat on the cards.
He was last out in July last year where hot prospect, Vergil Ortiz Jr scored a seventh round knockout. That was Vargas’ third stoppage loss in six defeats, having also previously been halted by Danny Garcia and Errol Spence Jr and he is definitely coming towards the end of a long professional career.
Prediction: Benn is looking to really kick on in 2021, and matching the feats of Garcia, Spence and Ortiz by halting Vargas inside schedule would be another tick in the box for his future ambitions.
Ambition is something that Vargas has less and less of these days, and I think that Benn can break the visitor’s spirit in the later rounds, possibly forcing Vargas to retire from battle.
Courtenay clashes with Bridges for WBA world title
Rachel Ball’s misfortune could be her old rival Shannon Courtenay’s gain, as the Watford talent contests the vacant WBA Bantamweight crown against Australia’s enigmatic Ebanie Bridges.
Both can consider themselves slightly fortunate to be competing for world honours so early, but it’s a chance they aim to grab.
Courtenay (6-1, 3 KOs) saw her early career progress checked by Ball in August 2020, heavily floored in the opening round before dropping a tight points loss over eight.
‘The Baby Face Assassin’ did return in December 2020, stopping Dorota Norek in seven.
I’ve got to get better and back in there 💯 https://t.co/H5vf0QJYqs
— Rachel Ball (@Rachel_Ball_) April 7, 2021
The rematch with Ball is a natural, but it will have to wait for now as New South Wales native Bridges (5-0, 2 KOs) goes for glory as a result of Ball still suffering with the after effects of COVID-19.
The 34-year-old is largely untested and fights in the UK for the first time. She was last seen just a month ago, winning the vacant Australasian Super Bantamweight title with a wide points win over eight against Carol Earl.
Prediction: Although Courtenay showed vulnerability in her defeat to Ball, it may very well have done more good than harm. Bridges is quite an unknown quantity in the ring, and I expect the Courtenay to diffuse the Aussie after an early onslaught, and win the title widely on the cards.
Farooq meets Espinoza
Fans get another welcome look at the talented Kash Farooq (14-1, KO6), and the former British champion goes for another ranking building belt here.
The Glasgow Bantamweight challenges for the WBC International Silver title currently held by Nicaragua’s Alexander Espinoza over ten rounds.
Farooq (14-1, 6 KOs) shipped his Lonsdale belt in a thriller against Lee McGregor in November 2019, but made the move to Matchroom Boxing and won the vacant WBA Continental crown on his debut with a unanimous points win against Angel Aviles.
Espinoza (20-2-2, 8 KOs) fights outside of his homeland for just the second time and won his WBC strap in his last fight, a points win against Aron Juarez.
Prediction: He has been halted early as recently as August 2019 and Farooq can impress with an early win before halfway in this one.
John Hedges (1-0) had his hands full on his professional debut against the tough Jan Ardon and he takes on Stanko Jermelic (0-5) over four rounds at Light Heavyweight after moving up from Super Middleweight.
Prediction: Hedges should have learned a lot from a good four rounds last time, and he can remove Dvorak early on.
Heavyweight talent, Nick Campbell makes his professional debut, and the Scot residing in Jersey meets Petr Frohlich (2-30-1, 1 KO) over a scheduled six.
Prediction: Campbell should halt the Czech in the early rounds.
At Middleweight, Savannah Marshall (9-0, KO7) will be looking to send another clear and direct message to long term rival, Claressa Shields, as she makes the first defence of her WBO title against late notice replacement, Maria Lindberg (19-6-2, KO10), who steps in for Belgium’s Femke Hermans, after her coach tested positive for COVID.
Marshall impressed last time out in October 2020, taking the vacant belt she now holds with a commanding seventh round stoppage of tough Scot, Hannah Rankin, and she is certainly a fighter destined for big success.
Lindberg is now 44, and has four previous failed world title challenges under her belt, twice at Middleweight, and once each at Super Middleweight and Super Welterweight.
The Swede last boxed in December 2019, taking a wide win on the cards against the 4-13-2 Mariam Tatunashvili in Germany.
Marshall will be keen to take her frustrations on the change of opponent out on her new one, and I expect Marshall to stop the fading Lindberg in the second half of the contest.