Tony Bellew wants Conor Benn to fight the winner of Khan vs Brook next

‘He WILL be among the best in the world’: Tony Bellew backs ‘explosive’ Conor Benn to continue his rapid rise but warns him that Chris Algieri will be his toughest test yet… as he calls for the Brit to face the winner of Amir Khan vs Kell Brook next

  • Tony Bellew says it’s only a matter of time before Conor Benn reaches world level
  • The Brit, 25, takes on former world champion Chris Algieri on Saturday night
  • Bellew believes the welterweight is set for the toughest test of his career to date
  • Promoter Eddie Hearn has promised a mega-fight for Benn next year if he wins 
  • Sign up here to watch Saturday’s fight exclusively on DAZN

Tony Bellew believes it’s a question of when – not if – Conor Benn will reach the top of the welterweight division but warns once he gets there, there’s no turning back.

Benn, son of the legendary former two-weight world champion Nigel, stands at the periphery of world level as he prepares to take on seasoned veteran Chris Algieri in Liverpool on Saturday night.

The previously green, often reckless, welterweight has shown immense improvement in recent months, defeating Sebastian Formella at the back end of last year, before blasting out Samuel Vargas in a round in April and outclassing Adrian Granados in September.

Promoter Eddie Hearn insists Benn is the real deal and will push for a mega-fight next year, providing he gets the win on Saturday. But Bellew warns the welterweight is in for the toughest test of his career to date.

Conor Benn (left) takes on former world champion Chris Algieri (right) on Saturday night

Promoter Eddie Hearn (left) has insisted Benn is set for a massive 2022 should he win

‘Chris Algieri’s a really good fighter,’ Bellew told Sportsmail. ‘I know he’s 37 years old, but he’s not your average 37-year-old in the lower weight divisions.

‘This man is a diligent professional. He’s extremely clever, prepares perfectly, he’s a nutritionist – he’s got everything in his favour. If you look at the shape he’s in, he looks like he’s 27, not 37. Conor’s going in there with someone who will be physically just as good, just with a lot more experience.

Bellew insists Benn is in for the toughest test of his career against Algieri

‘The thing that Conor has in his favour is the explosiveness and the youth on his side. I know I just said Chris looks great, but you can never get it back when it’s gone – that explosiveness, that speed, that enthusiasm that comes with youth.

‘Conor has all these things in abundance; you’ll see it on Saturday night. I expect Conor to jump all over him, but I’m not going to lie, I also expect Chris to still be there after three or four rounds. And if that’s the case, it’s is going to be the toughest fight of Conor’s career so far.’

Though in prime condition as he weighed in at 146lb on Friday, a prevalent concern for Algieri is his lack of activity in recent years, particularly at a high level. The American is a former world champion and has shared the ring with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Errol Spence Jr, albeit losing against all three, the only defeats in his career.

He has fought just once since the summer of 2019, however, claiming a unanimous decision victory over Mikkel LesPierre in August. In fact, he’s taken to the ring just four times since his 2016 defeat to Spence Jr. 

Bellew insists inactivity will only play a factor for the first few rounds, believing Algieri can come into his own in the latter stages of the fight. But while he’s hoping to see Benn take his time in the ring, he admits a knockout – in any round – would be seriously impressive.

Benn has enjoyed a stellar 2021, defeating Samuel Vargas (left) and Adrian Granados (right) 

Algieri has fought the likes of Amir Khan, as well as Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence Jr

‘It was a big, big thing to go out there and blast out Samuel Vargas,’ he said. ‘If he does the same to Chris Algieri, then wow. That’s all I could say, wow.

‘Algieri isn’t Samuel Vargas. He’s a former world champion who’s been in there with some really, really good fighters. He’s got a standout victory over Ruslan Provodnikov.

‘If Conor gets rid of him in any round, that’s a big statement performance. Only Spence has done it, and he was the best welterweight in the world bar none at the time. I was labelling Errol Spence as the new Marvin Hagler, he was that good.’

Bellew has been ‘extremely impressed’ by Benn’s recent development, insisting ‘he’s the first in the gym and the last out’ and highlighting the young fighter’s dedication as his greatest asset.

But while Hearn – who the Liverpudlian states is a masterful matchmaker – plans a massive 2022 ahead, Bellew believes Benn should be kept away from the likes of David Avanesyan for now, instead targeting the winner of Amir Khan and Kell Brook, who will finally square off in February.

Bellew believes Benn should target the winner of Khan (left) and Kell Brook (right) next

‘I don’t like the Avanesyan fight just yet,’ he said. ‘He’s got an awful lot of amateur experience. He’s an extremely tough man who’s on the verge of a world title shot himself. I think the next step could be the winner of Khan and Brook.

‘Whoever wins that fight between Khan and Brook will want Benn,’ he continued. ‘I do think both of them are (coming back for a last hurrah) a little bit, but I think the winner will have a big platform again.

‘They’ll want to cash in on that big platform they’ve just gained. I think it’s over for the loser, that’s the last we’ll ever see of them. But I don’t think it’s over for the winner.

‘I’ve always thought Kell would be too strong (for Khan), but the way both of these guys have deteriorated in the last few years, I’m not so sure.

‘I never in a million years thought I’d see two guys arguing about which guy got knocked out worse in the build-up to a big fight (in their recent press conference).

‘For now, it’s all about Conor Benn. He’s the biggest prospect in the welterweight division in this country.’

Unfortunately for Benn, he’s in a welterweight division jam-packed with pound-for-pound contenders. Headed by the ferocious WBO champion Terence Crawford, the rest of the belts are tied up by WBC and IBF champion Spence Jr and WBA champion Yordenis Ugas, who sent Pacquiao into retirement.

But even the prospects are fighting at an extraordinary level. Vergil Ortiz Jr and Jaron Ennis, aged just 23 and 24 respectively, are two of the most exciting young boxers across the sport in its entirety.

Bellew warns it’s too soon for Benn to be thinking about opponents of such calibre.

Pound-for-pound contender Terence Crawford is currently the name to beat in the welterweight division, as he seeks a unification bout with Errol Spence Jr

The welterweight division is also stacked with elite-level contenders, with Vergil Ortiz Jr (left) and Jaron Ennis (right) two of the best prospects in world boxing

‘You can see what happens to fighters when they receive great success really quickly, without any real pedigree,’ he said. ‘Anthony Joshua springs to mind. He was an Olympic champion in record time, a world champion in record time, unified world champion in record time.

‘Then when he comes up against a really, really classy boxer, it’s a struggle because he hasn’t faced these kind of challenges before. It’s hard, you can’t just make these things up overnight.

‘I just don’t want Conor to fall into that trap of too much, too soon. There’s no rush, especially when he’s got youth on his side. There are numerous fights out there that can be made for him, it’s just all about timing.’

Bellew believes Adrien Broner, who has won world titles across four weight classes, could be an interesting match-up for Benn, though he insists a motivated Broner is a nightmare for anyone.

But while he believes the elites of the division are out of reach for now, Bellew is confident Benn will get there sooner rather than later.

‘You can’t put him in the same category as the likes of Terence Crawford or Vergil Ortiz Jr, you just can’t,’ he said. ‘These guys just have such a vast amount of experience, they’re in a different league at the moment.

‘But what you can say is that, at the rate he’s developing right now, he will be in and among the best welterweights in the world. It’s only a matter of time.

‘This is a boy who doesn’t need to fight, this is a boy who chooses to fight. Believe me that makes him really dangerous. I had to fight, so do 90 per cent of boxers out there. He’s there because he wants to be there, he loves being there.

‘He’s going to go a long, long way. The likes of Boots (Jaron Ennis) and Vergil Ortiz Jr, forget about those guys for now. At this moment in time, you want to be aiming towards the lesser world champions or fringe contenders.

‘A couple more fights and you go for Avanesyan. That’s a real, real test, it really is. But I do feel after two more fights he’ll beat Avanesyan. Two more fights is all he needs. Let’s just get through Saturday night first.’

Bellew says a win over welterweight contender David Avanesyan could be just two fights away

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