Conor Benn might be one of boxing’s hottest properties after his scorching victory over Sammy Vargas but his trainer insists he is still very much a work in progress.
Benn moved to 18-0 and captured the imagination of the boxing world with his quick win but there’s time to improve, says Tony Sims, who added that Benn will not be rushed.
Plenty of big names went alongside Benn’s last weekend. Shawn Porter, Adrien Broner, Amir Khan and David Avanesyan were all mentioned after Vargas was swept aside in less than two minutes.
But Sims has been entrusted to look after Benn and that’s what he intends to do. The trainer goes back years with Benn’s famous father, Nigel. They used to spar and now former world champion Nigel lives in Australia, Sims is charged with keeping an eye on the former “Dark Destroyer’s” son.
“I’ll just do it at my pace,” said Sims. “At the end of the day, I’ve been friends with Nigel for a long, long time and he’s put his boy’s career in my hands and if the boot was on the other foot and my son went to America and I asked him [Nigel] to do that for my son then I’m sure he’d do that for me. He’s put his life and career in my hands and I’ll do it the way I want to do it and so far so good, so we’ll just keep going the way I want to do it.”
There were many at the start of the Conor Benn journey who thought he was overhyped and would make progress solely based on his surname.
He’s starting to make believers of the cynics now.
“I think everyone has seen the rawness of him because from his first fight he’s been televised, second fight televised, every part of him has been documented so everyone in the public could see how raw he was,” admitted Sims.
“But the thing with Conor Benn is that he’s like a sponge, he wants to learn and I had the fighter I wanted to make him into in my head but first and foremost I needed to teach him how to box. I knew he’d be able to fight because he’s got that in him from his dad – but the first thing I wanted to do was teach him to box and get his jab working, head movement and footwork… Step by step… And through the last five years we’ve been through that and when a fighter can box, punch and he can fight he becomes a dangerous man. He’s not a one trick pony. He’s got good footwork and balance and he’s got great head movement, fast hands and a great jab and he’s got the punching-power of his dad, the kind of power that takes you out.”
Benn said during fight week that Sims had to exhibit extreme patience at times on their journey together but for Sims it was part of the Benn project he knew about when he took it on. He could see the potential but knew it would take time.
“I always believe in my method of doing one thing at a time and once he’s got that right, just move on to the next thing,” explained Sims of how they’ve done it.
“There’s still a lot of development to go. In his last spar, he threw a combination that he’s known and he’s been throwing it for five years and he’s not executed [properly] yet but he threw it in the last spar and in the sixth or seventh round of an eight-round spar he produced it and I was talking to him about that combination before the fight [and] I said, ‘I wish you’d thrown that at the beginning of camp and not just in your last spar.’ He probably couldn’t have done that in the fight but in the next one hopefully he’ll execute it and that’s the development that he’s making, that’s why I want to keep developing him and still bring him on how I want to bring him on and not listen to anyone else about what they want to do. We’ll just do what we want to do and the end product will be a world class fighter.”
Safe to say, Sims was pleased with how Saturday night went.
“Yes,” he said. “Obviously I don’t think anyone expected it to finish that early, especially Vargas, who’s a durable, tough man, but Conor came out the box strong, caught him and he finished him. I [had] just said to him have a look at him and use your jab. I say to all my boys to look at them in the first round, but if the opportunity arises just pick your punches and make sure if they are hurt, keep them hurt, and that’s what he did.”
Vargas looked stunned that it was over, but Sims said Vargas was simply stunned.
“When I went over to Vargas afterwards the first thing he said to me was, ‘Did I go down?’ I said, ‘No, you never went down.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I could have carried on then.’ I don’t think he knew exactly where he was afterwards, so looking at things like that it was probably the right stoppage and you don’t want another two or three punches crashing in, you don’t know what would’ve happened.”
There are plenty of exciting domestic options for Benn, but Sims has plans further afield.
“We’ll probably go down the European route and get a European title for him and then take it one step at a time,” Tony went on.
“He’s still only 24 but those names they’re talking about will be in his reach eventually. Obviously the [Amir] Khan name is a big name to chuck up there and that fight can be made but it won’t be his next fight. I think Avanesyan is going to go into a big world [title] fight the way [promoter] Eddie [Hearn] is talking, so, if he does hopefully it frees up the European and we can slot in there. That’s what we’re looking at. If not we might even take a fight in the States but I’m looking to get him a fight in July time. I want him to stay busy now.”
Benn will spend time with his newborn baby and have a couple of weeks off and then it will be back to the gym as the build continues.