Conor Benn and Katie Taylor deliver perfection after long and very different boxing roads

After both have walked long and varied journeys in the sport, Benn and Taylor combined to produce two fine performances on Saturday night

<p>Conor Benn and Katie Taylor produced fine performances in Liverpool</p>

Conor Benn and Katie Taylor produced fine performances in Liverpool

Conor Benn and Katie Taylor arrived in the Liverpool ring after long journeys down very different boxing roads and then combined in style to deliver two perfect performances on Saturday night.

Benn had the best win of his career to knock-out Chris Algieri in round four and Taylor was punch-perfect for ten rounds to retain all her lightweight belts against Firuza Sharipova. However, it was not about facts, it was about the tiny qualities in the ring that make the biggest difference. And for Benn, it was another very personal statement.

Benn has been swinging and hurting people in the boxing game since leaving Australia and taking up residency in Essex six years ago. His transition from novelty act, the fun son of a British fighting icon, Nigel Benn, has not been easy. Benn's progress seemed to stall, the enthusiasm for his wild efforts had a ceiling; in harsh terms, it looked like he would lose the moment he stepped up in grade. It is a dreadful dilemma, one where a boy is measured so closely against a great man. It is the darkening shadow, one that can ruin a life.

“I have to live with the criticism and it still hurts,” said Benn late on Saturday night. “I was a kid of 19 and that stuff sticks.” That stuff, by the way, was harsh and unpleasant. It clearly hurt him.

Benn has changed beyond all recognition, the most startling transformation of a young fighter that I can recall. He was a boxing baby when he turned professional in 2016, under the steady guidance of Tony Sims, and his first 12 or so fights followed the pattern; easy wins, easy criticism, easy nights and what sounded like unrealistic promises. He was dropped a couple of times in one fight and had to face some lurking demons. Having a father like Nigel, a man at the very core of British boxing's modern boom, is a blessing and a curse. The pressure on the novice son was immense and unfair.

And then, he started to change. It really is that simple; he matured in front of our eyes, he looked measured, controlled, powerful and not raw. On Saturday he was very impressive and calm to win for the 20th time. The clean, single-punch knockout of Algieri was his finest moment, but it is just the latest in a slick sequence of planned wins; testimony to the skills of the matchmaker. Sure, Algieri's best days were five or six years ago, but the New Yorker arrived with the right head, knowing a win would transform the end of his career and he clearly possessed enough to beat the old Conor Benn. Sadly, for nice-guy Chris, that fighter has gone forever.

“If I had listened to all the critics, I would have been back in Australia and putting another shrimp on the barbie,” said Benn. “I had to prove people wrong, I knew I would be where I am now – I think I'm the best fighter in Britain.” He is certainly the most improved.

Benn put on a show against Algieri

“Did you hear those cheers?” inquired Sims, an old-school trainer with no desire to tell everybody he is one of the best in the business. “They were applauding Conor's defence, they were cheering his moves – think about that. He's class.” Sims is right, there were moments when Benn made Algieri miss and the fight-smart crowd in Liverpool clapped and shouted their appreciation for a bit of art.

Benn controlled all aspects of the fight and in the fourth, as the bell approached, he gently pushed Algieri, a former world champion, back and then he connected with a text-book left right. Algieri was out cold as he fell in a heavy spiral to the canvas. He started to move as the count reached ten. The facts will record the official end at 2.58 of the fourth, the facts miss the real story: Conor Benn is no longer moving in the long, long shadow of his father's glory.

A fight against the winner of Kell Brook and Amir Khan, which is optimistically scheduled for February next year, would be an enormous event.

Taylor won Olympic gold, five World and six European amateur titles starting in 2005, and her classy win over Sharipova was her 14th consecutive world title fight. No boxer in history has statistics like that. Taylor is also 35 now and on Saturday night she was as clever as I have ever seen her; she finished the ten rounds without a mark on her face and that has become rare in recent long and hard and difficult fights. She has talked about the subtle changes she has made to her training regime with less contact and more intelligence. She fought smart, as we say in this game.

Taylor showed her class against Sharipova

On Saturday night, Sharipova was sharp and fast for two rounds and then Taylor just took over with great timing, clever footwork; two years ago, Taylor would have just walked in and out-blasted Sharipova. On Saturday, Taylor made a hard fight look easy at times. She won by three, five and six rounds on the scorecards of the three judges, but it could have been wider. Taylor retained her five world title belts.

There is now bold talk of a showdown with Amanda Serrano in New York next year. The fight has been discussed, dismissed, agreed and rejected so many times in the last two or so years, but it looks and sounds like it might now happen. Serrano has to first beat Miriam Gutierrez this Saturday in Florida. Taylor easily shut-out Gutierrez last December. And, Serrano has a sister called Cindy and in 2018, Taylor boxed her ears off. Amanda has only lost once in 43 fights. It would be the greatest match in women's boxing.

Benn and Taylor started on very different roads all those years ago and somewhere backstage in Liverpool, each draped in their robes, they shared the same space; the kid with the famous dad and the woman who inspired a generation. They were, on Saturday, just two very good fighters with a job to do.

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