Stanionis, Butaev, Benn: An important Saturday for the future of the Welterweight Division
By: Maiqi Zhang – After a busy weekend of boxing, fans around the world eagerly await one of the most exciting fights this year so far: the welterweight unification bout between Errol Spence Jr. (27-0) and Yordenis Ugas (27-4-0) that is set to take place this Saturday in Arlington, Texas. However, quietly across the pond, a fight featuring the young, unbeaten, and hungry welterweight prospect Conor Benn(20-0-0) is also set to take place in the AO Arena in Manchester, England.
Benn vs. Van Heerden
The 25 year old Conor Benn is looking to put up his undefeated record and the WBA Continental welterweight title on the line against the South African veteran boxer Chris Van Heerden (28-2-1). This fight should be a relatively easy, resume-building fight for Benn, as Van Heerden is likely suffering from ring rust as a result of inactivity. Chris Van Heerden’s last fight against Jaron “Boots” Ennis was in December of 2020, and it ended as a disappointing no-contest after Van Heerden suffered a cut early on in the first round. A look at Van Heerden’s record showed that he is not a power puncher, similar to many of Benn’s past opponents. But what he lacks in power could somewhat be redeemed through his experience. The 34 year old Van Heerden is no stranger to the big stage. He has made a name for himself in his native South Africa before beating Matthew Hatton as a part of his four-year winning streak. Furthermore, Van Heerden also had experience fighting one of the best Welterweight boxers in the world today, Errol Spence Jr.
Connor Benn, however, still remains the fan-favorite for this fight. And rightly so, Benn has had quite a few impressive wins against veteran fighters with even more impressive resumes. Like Van Heerden, fighters Benn had beaten comfortably in the past, such as Chris Algeri and Adrian Granados, are not known for their powers. Looking forward to this Saturday, Benn is expected by the fans to win the fight and do it impressively.
Despite being highly ranked by many boxing organizations and outlets as one of the top ten welterweight fighters today, many still see Benn as a domestic level fighter or a fringe contender at best. With that being said, it is imperative for Benn to level up his opposition after this fighter. Should he dominate Van Heerden this Saturday, it should be high time for Benn to step on the big stage with more qualified oppositions.
Stanionis vs. Butaev
Another relatively obscure fight that many boxing media outlets overlook is also set to happen this Saturday in Arlington, Texas. As a former Olympian and a celebrated amateur fighter in Europe, the undefeated Lithuanian native Eimantas Stanionis(13-0-0) is set to fight against the Russian fighter Radzhab Butaev(14-0-0) for the WBA regular welterweight title. This fight is set as one of the undercards preceding the main event, but as a matter of importance, it is enough to stand alone as of the main card of an episode of Showtime Championship Boxing that isn’t Pay-Per-View.
This is one of the fights that arguably deserves more coverage and attention than it currently receives. Both Stanionis and Butaev are unbeaten contenders ranked highly by various boxing organizations. At the time of writing this article, Stanionis is ranked as the #1 contender by WBO and #7 by The Ring Magazine. Butaev, on the other hand, is ranked the #9 according to the Ring Magazine, but he also holds the WBA regular welterweight title. The winner of this fight would undoubtedly have the opportunity to challenge the winner of the main event in a future showdown. And hence, the importance of this fight is not to be undermined.
Stylistically speaking, this fight should also be an entertaining one packed with a ton of actions. Both fighters are seen as pressure fighters with power and aren’t afraid of trading punches in the middle of the ring. Butaev is coming off of a solid knockout win against the former WBA regular title holder Jamal James in a fight that took place in October of last year. Stantinois, on the other hand, is coming off of a no-contest fight against veteran Luis Collazo in August of last year. However, despite the no-contest, Stanionis proved himself a worthy challenger when he defeated Thomas Dulorme in April of the same year, who was ranked #14 by the WBA at the time.
Judging by the resume of both fighters, Butaev stands out as the slightly favorable one. Nonetheless, anything is possible in the sport of boxing. The two fighters are so stylistically similar with about the same amount of experience that it will certainly serve as a delicious appetizer before the main course. It is hard to decide who will have the upper hand in this fight so fans better stay tuned.
The welterweight division might not be one of the most stacked divisions today, but it is still a hot division filled with talented prospects and champions alike. This Saturday would not only mark a new beginning with the crowning of a new unified champion but would also set the path straight for some of the biggest matchups in the division’s future.
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