After an arduous training camp, Conor Benn barely broke a sweat on Saturday night as he blew away Samuel Vargas in 82 seconds at the Copper Box Arena.
Vargas (31-7-2, 14 KOs) was perceived as a step-up for Benn (18-0, 12 KOs) in the build-up having fought the likes of Errol Spence Jr, Danny Garcia and Vergil Ortiz, albeit in defeat.
However, ‘The Destroyer’ capitalised on an early breakthrough and unloaded a sustained and vicious assault which went unanswered, with Vargas pinned on the ropes forcing the referee to put an end to proceedings.
The 32-year-old was dissatisfied with the stoppage but Benn, who made a fourth defence of his WBA Continental Welterweight title sent out a huge statement to the division, displaying spiteful finishing instincts much in the mould of his father.
Whilst there wasn’t a great deal to learn from such an early stoppage, apart from the fact that the 24-year-old has dynamite in both fists, Benn will take confidence from stopping Vargas in quicker and more emphatic fashion than the names mentioned above, with Ortiz Jr taking seven rounds to halt him.
“Statement made,” Benn told Sky Sports post-fight.
“No one banged him out in one round, easy.
“When you beat a fighter you gain experience. I don’t think I gained any experience in there tonight, apart from I can deal with the pressure, I can cope with it because I’m built for it. All this hype, I can live with it.
“I’m ready for the top dogs, the Shawn Porters, I see Adrien Broner campaigning at 147, I want them, I want to test myself.”
Whilst a clash with former two-time world champion, Porter would seem unlikely there are plenty of other options available to Benn, so who could he face next?
Even before Benn stepped in the ring with Vargas, he revealed his desire to tackle Amir Khan and Kell Brook.
‘The Destroyer’ reitiretated his ambitions afterwards calking for a clash with 140lbs champion, Khan who unsuccessfully challenged for Terence Crawford’s WBO title in April 2019.
“Give me a proper test, give me Amir Khan,” Benn told Sky Sports.
“I know he’s too busy on reality shows and all that, but listen if he wants it he can get it.”
Khan (34-5, 21 KOs) has reportedly held fresh talks with promoter Eddie Hearn for an overdue showdown with Brook and appeared to dismiss a bout with Benn, who is 10 years his junior.
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The 34-year-old said on Twitter: “Conor well done. Great kid, wish him the best. At his age I was a world champ.
“Maybe if he had some belts that fight would make sense but he’s got a long way to go yet.”
Conor well done. Great kid, wish him the best.
At his age I was a world champ.
Maybe if he had some belts that fight would make sense but he’s got a long way to go yet 👊🏽 😝
— Amir Khan (@amirkingkhan) April 11, 2021
Whilst interest for a potential meeting gained momentum on social media on Saturday, it seems unlikely that ‘King’, who has been out of the ring since stopping Billy Dib in July 2019 would face his compatriot, especially without a major title on the line, although if a suitable offer is made Khan maybe tempted to forgo plans to face Brook.
The retractors against Benn fighting a world-class opponent next would argue he lacks the professional experience currently.
Victories over Vargas and Sebastian Formella in November, who also went the distance in defeat to Shawn Porter have strengthened Benn’s credentials, but Hearn is keen to see him gain more knowledge from a world level contender.
“I’d like to see Conor Benn back out in June, July,” Hearn told Matchroom Boxing.
“Get another good world title level guy, fringe world championship level guy under his belt, do some rounds and then we’re good to go against anyone.”
Egidijus Kavaliauskas would represent just that with a sole reverse in a ninth round stoppage defeat to Terence Crawford in December 2019, whilst he drew with Ray Robinson in March 2019.
The Lithuanian, who represented his country at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, bounced back from that loss with an eighth round knockout of Mikael Zewski in September.
‘Mean Machine’ is a fierce puncher and is now a promotional free agent after being released by Top Rank, according to Steve Kim meaning a deal could be reached and at 32-years-old it could be worth taking the step-up.
Kavaliauskas (22-1-1, 18 KOs) is highly-ranked in the WBO, so the question would be whether he would be prepared to risk his position, although a clash with Benn could be a lucrative prospect.
David Avanesyan made a stark reminder of the threat he poses at 147lbs after stopping Josh Kelly in February.
Avanesyan (27-3-1, 15 KOs) made a third defence of his European crown with a vicious knockout of the slick Brit and Benn, who was working as a pundit for Sky Sports, congratulated him in his dressing room afterwards.
The 32-year-old is on a five fight knockout streak and is closing in one a world title opportunity with top five rankings in both the WBC and IBF, where Errol Spence Jr holds both belts.
His manager Neil Marsh said on Twitter that he had “a lot of respect” for Benn, but that they would “love the fight” against him.
Avanesyan has operated at a high level only beaten by Lamont Peterson and Kavaliauskas, after defeat in his second professional bout and a showdown with Benn would be intriguing and has already generated interest online.
People say his past British level well fight David Avanesyan next .
Amir Khan fought the best in the World show him some respect .
— Joe Gallagher (@JoeG) April 10, 2021
If Benn decided to trade with him it could be an all-out war or otherwise the Ilford man may opt to take a more calculated approach and display his improving skill like he did with Formella.
Michael McKinson earnt the biggest win of his career to date, knocking down Chris Kongo on route to a deserved points victory in Gibraltar last month.
‘The Problem’ extended his undefeated streak to 20 straight victories and heightened his reputation as one of the leading Welterweights in what is a stacked division domestically.
The Portsmouth man is rated in the top six with the WBO and remains keen to face his compatriot.
“I would love the fight,” McKinson told Pro Boxing Fans.
“I’ve been calling Conor Benn out for four years.
“I’ve always done it in a respectful manner. I’ve met the lad, he’s a genuine, nice guy and I’d just be a bitter hater if I started abusing Conor Benn or putting this fight down.
If any domestic fighter deserves the Conor benn fight it’s me. But if he is wants to swerve domestic scene, that’s cool. See him at the top. 🙌🏽
— michael mckinson (@mikeytheproblem) April 8, 2021
“He was no good a few years ago, he wasn’t he was well matched. But his team have done a great job with him, he’s put the work in, he trains very hard and he’s a good fighter now.
“I would love the fight, I would like it sooner than later.”
There were strong calls for a meeting between the pair on social media and a fight would appear relatively straightforward to make and an intriguing style match-up with McKinson (20-0, 2 KOs) arguably the purest boxer domestically.
Although the 26-year-old admitted his awkward, southpaw style could work against him in securing an immediate fight with Benn and would likely meet at world level.
A meeting between Josh Kelly and Conor Benn seemed almost a certainty for the summer had ‘PBK’ beaten Avanesyan.
The pair remain on a collision course providing that the Sunderland man remains at 147lbs, with rumours he could move up to 154lbs.
The 27-year-old showed his precocious skill, speed and natural athleticism in the early stages against the Russian, before succumbing to his first professional defeat.
Kelly (10-1-1, 6 KOs) would be forgiven for having a tune-up fight first, to establish some momentum, although talk of a domestic showdown next remained rife on Saturday and still remains of interest despite Kelly’s sole defeat.