EXCLUSIVE: Conor Benn’s trainer Tony Sims admits they WILL consider pulling out of next weekend’s clash with Chris Eubank Jr if their rival weighs in over 158.5lbs – but expects the middleweight to drop down and avoid a last-minute cancellation
- Conor Benn is set to take on Chris Eubank Jr at London’s O2 Arena next weekend
- Benn has decided to jump almost two weight divisions to face the middleweight
- He is continuing his legendary family feud, which saw dad Nigel face Eubank Sr
- Sims, Benn Sr’s old sparring partner, is tasked with leading his son into battle
- The coach admits he would have preferred Benn to stay on track at welterweight
- But after receiving a green light from Nigel, Sims says they couldn’t turn it down
- He admits they will consider scrapping the bout if Eubank doesn’t make 158.5lbs
- Sign up here to watch the fight exclusively on DAZN
‘It seems like the time has flown so quickly from them days to now,’ says Tony Sims, who casts his mind all the way back to the early 1990s.
It was then that Sims, in his own fighting days at the time, enjoyed sparring sessions with good friend Nigel Benn in the lead-up to his super-middleweight world-title defences against Dan Sherry and Thulani ‘Sugar Boy’ Malinga.
Those contests were sandwiched by Benn’s two legendary encounters with arch-nemesis Chris Eubank; the first of which saw him stopped on his feet after nine rounds, before the rematch ended in a controversial draw.
Tony Sims (R) will be in Conor Benn’s corner when he takes on Chris Eubank Jr next weekend
Three decades ago Sims was providing sparring for Conor’s father, super-middleweight world champion Nigel Benn, in between his two encounters with Chris Eubank Sr
Sims was ringside at a packed Old Trafford for the second instalment of Benn’s celebrated rivalry with Eubank, which remains the greatest British boxing has ever seen. Now, three decades on, he is tasked with leading his son into battle against Eubank Jr.
‘There are people that weren’t even born when those fights were happening, and I was actually amongst it and sparring Nigel in the gym,’ Sims, one of the most respected trainers in the country, tells Sportsmail.
‘So to see his boy that I’ve trained for the last six or seven years now fighting Eubank, I suppose when you look at it that way it is a surreal thing.
‘But to me, I haven’t really sat down and thought about it like that. That’s the first time I’ve thought about it like that. To me it’s just an everyday job in the gym that I’ve done for the last 26 years.’
Next Saturday at London’s O2 Arena, Sims will be in Benn Jr’s corner for the astonishing Eubank trilogy not many saw coming this quickly.
His young welterweight charge, who had been building slowly and steadily towards a world-title shot at 147lbs, is leaping up almost two weight divisions to take on Eubank, a 160-pounder by nature.
Eubank Jr and Benn are now set to continue their family feud in a true fantasy encounter
The sons of the two famous rivals are squaring off 29 years since their fathers’ last meeting
Benn was enjoying a slow and steady ascent towards world level at welterweight beforehand
The latter must drop down to a catchweight of 157lbs for this lucrative fantasy match-up to go ahead next weekend. Yet still, many forebode a painful evening for Benn in with a naturally heavier opponent who campaigned up at 168lbs not so long ago.
‘I’d have preferred him to stay in his own division,’ Sims admits, ‘because that’s where he was and that’s what he’s aiming for. But this was a curveball out of nowhere really, and it’s a hard fight to turn down – a very hard fight to turn down.
‘It’s a fight that both dads have gone down in history with. I spoke to Nigel on the phone about it straight away. Nigel was like, ‘do the fight, you’ve got to do the fight’. So as long as Nigel was happy that his son was going in there [it was fine], and I do believe that Conor is a special talent. I believe that whoever he fights, he has that sort of punching power that he can cause anyone trouble.’
Benn Sr’s seal of approval was an essential ingredient in this fight getting off the ground. If he had said otherwise, Sims insists it would not be going ahead.
‘Me and Nigel are good friends and have been good friends for a long time,’ he says about the British boxing icon, who now resides in Australia. ‘So I would always ask for his opinion on what he thought on any opponent.
‘He obviously likes to know where he’s living on the other side of the world, he likes to know what his son’s doing and what’s being made for him.
Sims admits he would have preferred his young charge to stay at 147lbs in normal conditions
But after receiving the green light from Nigel to make it, it was too hard to turn the fight down
‘If Nigel turned round to me and said “listen, under no circumstances do you do this fight,” it would have been a big factor in the fight not being made.
‘But he had no hesitation in saying take this fight, he said “this fight is right for my son.”‘
While Nigel was all for his son adding a third chapter to the family’s rivalry with the Eubanks, his old foe took a completely different stance.
In a sensational interview with Sportsmail earlier this month, Chris Sr opened up on his concerns with Jr cutting drastically down to a weight he has not made since his teenage years.
The former super-middleweight champion, expressing grave fears over his son’s safety, even threatened to jump the legal hoops required to scupper the bout entirely, a promise which proved empty given he is not contractually involved.
‘I respect Chris [Sr], he’s been a great fighter and that, but a lot of things that he says people don’t really take a lot of notice of,’ Sims says.
Eubank Sr, meanwhile, threatened to pull the plug on it due to fears over his son’s weight cut
‘He comes out with some strange comments, so I don’t think anyone took him that serious – even his own son.’
In an entertaining press conference last month, Eubank confessed to being up against it in his bid to make 157lbs. The 33-year-old only expects to be at 60 per cent when he collides with Benn next Saturday, but for him that is enough.
‘If I was 100 per cent it would be a public execution,’ was his memorable assessment.
While he is the overwhelming favourite here, some have questioned how much the weight cut will weaken Eubank. Stripping down to the middleweight limit has proved a struggle for him in recent years, an extra three pounds will not be easy to shed.
Fines are in place should he fail to make the agreed weight, however if Eubank tips the scales at over 158.5lbs Benn and his team will have the option to cancel the fight altogether.
‘Maybe he will [come in over],’ Sims predicts. ‘The fight’s made at 157 and there’s a cancellation policy of 158 and a half. He might pay the fine from 157 to 158 maybe, but whether he comes over the 158 and a half [or not], we’re allowed to cancel the fight in the contract. I don’t know whether he would risk doing that really.’
So would Sims advise Benn to pull out if the worst-case scenario happens?
Eubank Jr will have to cut down to a weight he has not made since his teenage years next week
But the 33-year-old has been taunting Benn by sharing videos of himself eating junk food
Sims admits they will consider cancelling the fight if Eubank comes in at over 158.5lbs
‘We would definitely have a look at that,’ he reveals. ‘But I don’t think he will miss the weight by that much.
‘Number one, I don’t think he would have suggested that weight, and number two I don’t think he would risk the cancellation. He might risk a fine on a pound, but the next pound up I don’t think he’d risk a cancellation.
‘But I can’t really speak for him or how he does things, so who knows.’
In an attempt to toy with Benn’s mind, Eubank has posted a series of videos on social media which show him chomping on KFC, burgers and cake in recent weeks.
Yet they haven’t had the desired effect, as Sims laughs: ‘We think it’s quite comical really. It’s quite funny’.
Should next Friday’s weigh-in all go swimmingly, Eubank Jr vs Benn will bring two generations together 24 hours later for a seismic event which promises to transcend the sport on these shores.
We may never see a matchup like it again, with the offspring of two famous enemies carrying their family feud into a third round 29 years on from the second.
Sims has spent even longer putting fighters through their paces as a coach, but for the esteemed trainer this unique clash will sit at the top of the pile.
‘I was involved with Anthony Joshua for quite a number of years, I done the Klitschko fight with him which was obviously massive with 90,000 people in London. But this fight here is a historical fight,’ he insists.
‘This brings all the generations into boxing, and I’m sure if it was in the summer we probably would have done it in a football stadium or Wembley, but you can’t trust the weather on October 8 so we had to do it in an indoor arena.
‘But yeah, I think it’s the biggest fight I’ve been involved in I would say.’
To settle the score for his father Benn will need to put in a display like no other next weekend. In Eubank, not only is he set to lock horns with a naturally bigger man, but he is also up against a fighter with five years’ more experience on the clock. And significant experience at that.
Benn’s mentor says next weekend’s showdown will be the biggest he has been involved in
If it goes ahead as planned, Benn and Eubank’s clash promises to bring generations together
The Hove-born man has proven he is cut from the same cloth as Chris Sr despite suffering some crushing setbacks, mainly in defeats against George Groves and Billy Joe Saunders. But neither of the aforementioned pair came close to stopping him inside the distance, and he is yet to touch the canvas as a professional.
Just like his dad, Eubank Jr’s chin seems to be made of steel.
Prevailing by knockout therefore looks an impossible job for Benn. Though for Sims, it is too volatile of a sport for that to be the case.
He concludes: ‘With boxing, it’s such an unpredictable sport, because you can look at fighters and see them in previous contests and think “yeah, he can do this and he can do that.” But until you get in there, it’s literally all about on the night – who’s right on the night?
‘Style wise, whether your style is suited to their style, defensively or offensively. It’s what works for the individual.
‘Chris Eubank’s got a granite chin, and Conor Benn is an explosive puncher. Who knows? It could go the full distance, 12 rounds. Conor Benn could knock anybody out at welterweight, light middleweight or middleweight. Chris Eubank could outbox anybody at any weight.
Sims believes his man is capable of winning by knockout next week despite Eubank’s chin
‘So it’s one of those fights, even though the majority of people believe Eubank will win because of his weight size and that Conor Benn’s the underdog, you still would not put your house on Chris Eubank winning, and you definitely wouldn’t know if Conor Benn can knock him out or not.
‘But one thing’s for sure, it’s gonna be exciting, because I do believe that Chris Eubank in his own mind doesn’t regard Conor as a welterweight that can hurt him, and I do believe that he probably thinks he can walk through him.
‘And I know that Conor Benn thinks he can beat Chris Eubank and I know that he thinks he can hurt him. So I think you’re gonna see a very explosive fight, especially in the early rounds.’
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