BN: How do you reflect on Conor Benn’s fight with Rodolfo Orozco?
TS: It went good. It was a good fight for Conor. Where he ain’t boxed for that long, he got the rounds under his belt; he was made to work hard; he done what he had to do in there. He caught the kid with some big shots. It was good for him.
I said to him beforehand, “This kid’s never been stopped in 38 fight so he’s durable – he’s definitely gonna go a few rounds”. I expected it to go six or seven rounds, but fair play to him, he went the distance. Some of the shots – when he was in the arena and you could hear ‘em; it was only like a 2,000 crowd there – when you heard some of the shots, body shots, head shots, going in, they was like thunderbolts in there. He’s one tough man, that man.
As we know, he’s a natural 147lbs fighter. We weren’t sure if he was gonna fight. He weren’t gonna fight, then he was gonna fight, then he weren’t gonna fight, and that’s how it’s been for the last few weeks. “You don’t wanna be boiling yourself down if you ain’t gonna fight.” He’s a 147 fighter but everyone who does their weight – it’s not easy to do. “We’ll make it at 154, and that way, you can do 154 pretty easily and you ain’t gotta strip yourself down that bad.” ‘Cause up until two weeks ago we still weren’t sure if he was gonna fight or not. It wasn’t the greatest camp, mentally, to do. Although he always trains hard, mentally, he didn’t have an opponent; didn’t know whether he was going to fight, so it was quite hard to focus sometimes.
Conor’s trained all the way through, for 18 months. It was only the last four weeks that we knew that we might fight, so it weren’t that long. A week before we definitely knew he was going to fight, and that was when the opponent come in as well. Normally you get your opponent and you train for 12 weeks, and you zone in during camp. It weren’t actually like that, but the 10 rounds done him good. He’s all good afterwards, and quite happy with his performance as well – he boxed quite smart; never really got hit that much.
Even when we got out here there was bits and pieces – complications going on in the background I didn’t tell him too much about. It ain’t been easy. It’s been quite difficult, mentally, to get through to this stage. All the commissions had to agree on everything, including The Board [British Boxing Board of Control], and we was waiting for all them to agree on it, so it was all going on all week. It ain’t been the easiest fight to get done, if you’re a fighter – mentally – but now he’s boxed he’s done the 10 rounds. He’s through that, so the next step will be moving on, getting a date, and working towards that date and whoever the opponent is.
It’s a massive weight off both of our shoulders. Talking about Conor Benn’s fight, and when’s his next fight and how he can build – the last 18 months it’s just been about the positive tests. It’s refreshing for him. He’s a fighter, and that’s what he does best and all he knows.
BN: Given the British Boxing Board of Control and UK Anti-Doping maintain that Benn hasn’t been “cleared”, did you have to weigh up the risk of being punished for guiding him?
TS: Only if he was banned or suspended wouldn’t I have been able to work the corner. If he was banned or suspended, from The Board, they wouldn’t have let me work the corner. They would have suspended me. Because he’s not suspended or banned I’m free to work anyone’s corner – as long as they’re not.
BN: Eddie Hearn’s already spoken of him fighting Chris Eubank Jnr in December…
TS: After the 10 rounds he’s done he’ll be ready, and also, he’ll get a proper camp in, mentally and physically. Bearing in mind, that was a camp of four weeks, really. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fit kid, but that was a four-week camp against a durable geezer who soaked everything up. To have a 12-week camp – a proper camp – bring in proper sparring, he’ll be more than ready. He’ll be properly prepared for the next fight.
BN: What did you think of Eubank Jnr’s performance in the rematch with Liam Smith?
TS: Liam Smith was probably at his best the first fight, and Eubank was probably at his worst, and then the next fight, Smith was probably the worst you’ve ever seen him, and Eubank’s was probably the best performance of his career. Both them fights was really hard to look into. Is Chris Eubank still vulnerable? The Smith he fought the second time didn’t even look like he’d done any training. It looked like he was injured. After two rounds Eubank realised he wasn’t doing anything and started to box him and looked good, but that wasn’t the first Smith that boxed him, so you wonder whether Eubank can still take a shot – he looked very vulnerable in that first fight. But was that ‘cause he was ill-prepared? You don’t know, so both the fights were really hard to look into. You can’t really take a lot away from either one of them. All I know is Eubank’s 34 now; apart from the last Smith fight he ain’t looked great in the fights leading up to that. That’ll be the Eubank that’s in my mind, really – and also, you can’t say Smith punches as hard as Conor Benn. If them bombs was landing on Eubank’s chin he wouldn’t be able to hold them.
BN: You had to leave Jordan Thompson in the UK during some of the final days of his preparations for Jai Opetaia…
TS: I’ve got Joe Cordina fighting [Edward Vazquez, in Monte Carlo] in five weeks’ time, but that’s why you have a system of coaches. Kevin Mitchell’s been my assistant coach for the last two years, so I was here for a week, I set the programmes out for both of them, and Kevin’s carried the programmes out. Kevin works every day in the gym with them anyway, so it’s not really that big a deal. In an ideal world you wouldn’t go away for a week, but that’s why you have two coaches in the gym, so if that happens the other coach takes over. It ain’t really been that much of a problem to be honest – I spoke to them every day. They knew their programmes. Kevin’s done all their programmes; done all the sparring, so it’s been fine.
[Thompson looks] really good. He’s in fantastic condition. He’s a big puncher – 6ft 7ins. With that kind of frame and power that he’s got, although he’s not as experienced, with that frame and power he’s literally got a chance against anybody. He’s like a genetic freak. That’s why he took the fight, took the opportunity with both hands, because he knows he probably could have done with another couple of fights but he’s a freak of nature.
BN: How good is Opetaia?
TS: Very good, from what I’ve seen of him. I’ve watched the [Maris] Breidis fight – to beat Breidis the way he did, he’s obviously a good fighter, but is Breidis the fighter he was a few years ago? It’s another one where we’re going to see how good he is on the night, really. We’ve got home advantage as well, so it makes a lot of difference.
I’m really confident. [Thompson’s] sparred really well; had great sparring; he’s looked good in sparring. His conditioning looks fantastic, and I’m looking forward to it.