Boxer Conor Benn



Building a legacy, curating his own image and growing up in a boxing dynasty: to celebrate the launch of the REPRESENT 247 x EVERLAST collaboration, we sat down with the boxer


It’s not really in the nature of boxers to spend time contemplating. In a world that moves fast, deals can fall apart almost as quickly as they’re tabled and any time spent reminiscing can leave fighters on the back foot. So, when we got the chance to sit down with Conor Benn and talk about the moments that have shaped his life, we were a little surprised. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t have been. The poster boy for a new generation of boxers, Conor Benn (23-0) isn’t known for sticking to convention. Ahead of the release of the REPRESENT 247 x EVERLAST collection, fronted by Benn, we caught up with the boxer to take stock of how far he’s come.

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On growing up the son of a boxer…

For Conor, there’s no escaping that he grew up the son of legendary two-time World Champion boxer Nigel Benn. While the media inevitably compare Conor’s career to his father’s, it’s his opponents in the ring who like to paint his achievements as the result of having everything handed to him on a plate. For Conor, this couldn’t be further from the truth: “You’d think I knew my dad was Nigel Benn hall-of-famer, but he raised me not knowing he was that. To me he was just my dad.”

It wasn’t until Conor entered his teens that he began to give much thought about what his father did for a living, with Nigel choosing to keep his achievements from Conor until around the age of 15. For the Benn household, there were much more important things to focus on. “It’s a mad thing, my dad kept it from me growing up,” he says. “I was raised in a religious upbringing - religious school, church every Sunday - so for me, my dad’s accomplishments in boxing were never really spoken about.”

“You’d think I knew my dad was Nigel Benn hall-of-famer, but he raised me not knowing he was that. To me he was just my dad.”

There’s a saying that goes: ‘Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men.’ Coined by author G. Michael Hopf and originally quoted in his post-apocalyptic novel Those Who Remain, it argues that tough times make tougher people, while those who grow up in comfort turn out to be weaker fighters. While it’s been used as an idea to drive the narrative in movies like Dune, as well as the TV series Walking Dead, it’s not one that’s resonated with Conor Benn’s. In fact it’s been the opposite…

Despite growing up in comfort and surrounded by luxury, nothing was handed to Conor on a plate. His father instilled in him the values of discipline and hard work, making it clear that if he wanted something, he would have to go out and get it himself. While his father’s approach would prove hard to understand for a teenage Conor at times, the lessons learned in childhood set the boxer up for life. “For me, I never understood why my dad would give me €20 a day, when my dad’s a multimillionaire and he’s giving me €20 a day to do work from 8 am to 5 pm, you know doing labouring, scaffolding, painting and decorating, and then after that I worked in retail,” he explains. “My dad's always made it aware to me that you need to have hard work, work ethic, discipline, in order to get ahead in life.”

Rather than being brought up in the limelight that came with his father’s fame, titles and money, Conor’s upbringing was built on longer-lasting foundations, foundations that he’d be able to rely on when the time came to step out of his father’s shadows and into the world…

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On becoming his own man...

Boxing is quite obviously the Benn family business, but it wasn’t a given that Conor would follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he explored other options. “I wanted to go into the gym business and start my own gyms, so [I] got my [personal training] certificate before my master’s degree in fitness,” he explains. “I was not made to sit in a classroom; I excelled in sports, so for me, that was always the avenue I knew I wanted to go down.”

However, the allure of pro boxing was too hard to resist and eventually, it demanded all of his attention. Did the values instilled in him put him in good stead for the ruthless world of boxing? “Of course they did, because if my dad had bailed me out financially and given me money whenever I wanted it, I would have no value for money, I’d have no value for anything. All of us had to work,” he explains.

Not someone to do things by half measures, when Conor decided to go all in on boxing, he knew he’d have to make sacrifices. Living in Sydney, Australia, at the time, Conor made the tough but necessary decision to move to England, leaving his family and all the luxuries behind. “I feel like in life you have to make sacrifices to get ahead - whatever it is. It’s part of the game,” he says. “You can’t not do that. You can’t just be in the comfort zone and achieve. It just doesn’t come together. You have to make choices you don’t want to have to make.”

“You can’t just be in the comfort zone and achieve. It just doesn’t come together. You have to make choices you don’t want to have to make.”

Once in England, Conor put his head down and got to work. Able to lean on his dad’s wealth of experience and know-how, Conor was connected with one of Nigel’s old sparring partners, Tony Sims. Despite the presence of one of boxing’s legendary fighters looming over him in those early days, Conor never felt any pressure from his dad, being allowed to get on with it and carve out his own path. “My dad just cares about me as a man. He doesn’t care about boxing. My dad doesn’t care about Conor Benn, he cares about his son and how he is. How are you son? And when he asks me how are you? he’s not asking how’s boxing?”

As Conor took his first steps into pro boxing, the comparisons to his dad were inevitable. Pundits spoke about the need for Conor to step out of Nigel’s shadows and carve out his own reputation. But he didn’t see it that way; he was happy to be associated with his dad’s legendary name and the weight that it carries. “My dad is the OG, he’s the Don Dada, and for me, if I achieve half, quarter, ten percent of what my dad has I’ll be a happy man,” he says. “I never try and separate myself from my dad in anything, because part of the reason, well one hundred percent of the reason of why I’m here today, is because of my dad. So, I owe everything to my dad. I’m here because of him.”

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On shaping his own image…

The debut fight is a major inflection point in any boxer’s career and since his debut win against Bulgarian Ivaylo Boyanov in April 2016, Conor has gone on to win all 23 of his bouts. However, the Conor that stepped into the ring for the first time eight years ago isn’t the same Conor that beat fellow welterweight Peter “Pistol Pete” Dobson by unanimous decision in February earlier this year. In the past eight years, Conor’s had plenty of opportunities to learn about himself. The result? He’s a whole lot wiser. “[Back then] I was a kid, I wasn’t ready. I was naive to the game, but I feel like as you get older you become more experienced, more calculated, you get your strength, you’re able to absorb knowledge a lot more, you’re able to have a better understanding of the game.”

With every fight and every win Conor has grown into his skin, becoming surer of who he is a person with every punch thrown. Part of that personal development has seen him shape his own image, in and out of the ring. In the ring, Conor’s known as ‘The Destroyer’, out of it, he’s known for being articulate and likeable.

Covered in tattoos, Conor’s body ink plays an important role in the way he presents himself to the world. The ones that mean the most to him are on his neck, including an eagle with wings that wrap around the front of his neck and a quote - ‘fear is a lie’- just above. Conor chose the eagle as a metaphor for his own journey, having flown the nest at a young age into the unknown.

“Fear can cripple you; fear is false evidence appearing real and I feel like fear is nine times out of 10 something you’ve made up in your head or something that’s stopping you from chasing greatness…”

This idea of overcoming his fears plays a big role in Conor’s life. He’s on a mission to prove that you can do anything you set your mind to. “Fear can cripple you; fear is false evidence appearing real and I feel like fear is nine times out of 10 something you’ve made up in your head or something that’s stopping you from chasing greatness… once you can conquer that you can get far in life.”

The question of style dominates boxing. Whether that’s what fight stance a boxer adopts in the ring or what they wear outside of it. For Conor, the question of personal style isn’t one he’s given too much thought to. He knows what he likes and sticks to it. For him, that’s clothing that gives him the confidence to be at his best; a mixture of sportswear like running trainers, base layers and hoodies from EVERLAST and smarter pieces like turtlenecks and Cuban-collar shirts, more suited to the any number of events a boxer is required to attend. “I don’t really have a style, it’s really weird. I mean I obviously do but I wear what I like to wear, so I’m not even sure if it goes,” he says. “I feel like maybe I just pull it off because whatever you wear with confidence you just pull it off, don’t you? But shoutout to FLANNELS' Personal Shopping Team, they style me, and they’ve styled me for my last few fights so shoutout to them.” While fashion and style may not be his area of expertise, he does know one thing: “I know now stripes and dots don’t go, did you know that?”

With bigger things on his plate, it’s understandable that Conor isn’t able to articulate his fashion sense in the way someone in the industry would. However, what is important to Conor is the idea of enclothed cognition - the notion that what you wear has an effect on your mental state. In this sense, Conor is all about wearing clothes that make him feel good. “See how it works is come fight night, look good, feel good. You know for me when I’m training it’s all about the gym attire. I want to get in the ring and feel good and look good. Not just on fight night but also in sparring and the press conference. You see before you feel, and you see before you hear. So, for me styles can say a lot about a man and style is important.”

“You see before you feel, and you see before you hear. So, for me styles can say a lot about a man…”

Conor’s recent success and his association with functional, effortless style has made him the perfect person to front the new 247 REPRESENT x EVERLAST collection. Featuring a number of pieces that bridge the gap between training and lifestyle and competition, the collaboration also sees Conor wear a bespoke REPRESENT 247 x EVERLAST robe and shorts. With so many shared values, such as relentless effort, refinement and the desire to constantly progress, fronting the new collection was something Conor was more than happy to get involved in. “It’s everything you need to be a successful fighter. Those [REPRESENT] qualities, those morals, the mindset, it’s everything you need to be a successful fighter. And for me, EVERLAST is a historic brand in boxing and boxing runs through my veins. It’s just who I am, what I am, what I stand for…”

With every fight resulting in a win and his personal style nailed down, there’s very little getting in Conor’s way and his ring walks show that. Described as ‘unmissable’ by DAZN, Conor’s ring walks are a carefully choreographed event that bring together his interest in style and music, with the reverence he has for his dad. “You gotta have a fierce look about you. You gotta look dead in the camera and frown, that’s it. That’s all you gotta do,” he explains. “Music choice is…I have the Big Ben chimes; when you hear the Big Ben chimes in boxing, you think Big Benn. Then I have 'Ready or Not’ by The Fugees because at the start of my career, ‘ready or not here I come’, that was how I felt; not sure if I was ready or not to be honest.”

For Conor, the ring walks are an opportunity to pay respect to his dad’s legacy, so playing ‘Dangerous’ by Conroy Smith as his final song is the thread that ties the two together. “I feel like the generation who supported my dad, support me. Then I feel like the younger generation support me, maybe knowing my dad.”

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On building a legacy…

Legacy is something boxers think about a lot. When it’s time to hang up the gloves and their fighting days are over, what remains? Conor Benn is a fighter with a purpose and a clear mission. He knows what he’s fighting for every time he steps into the ring and he’s keen to pass down the lessons learned to young generations. “You have a lot of young fighters, a lot of young kids who look up to me, who aspire to be successful or be a fighter, but I feel like the principles in boxing apply to anything in life.”

For Conor, boxing isn’t just about battering your opponent into pulp, the sport provides a set of values and principles, such as resilience, that can set you up for trials in life. “You get knocked down, you get back up, you keep fighting. Stay disciplined, stick at it, stick through it, keep fighting. The hardest fight is life, what’s fighting another man in the ring? The hardest fight is life and that’s how I feel boxing can transcend across the globe.”

“You get knocked down, you get back up, you keep fighting.”

While the goal is to pass down knowledge and advice to those younger than him, Conor hasn’t spent too much time thinking about what his legacy will be. What he does want is for people to look back on his career and see a boxer that refused to be boxed in. Instead, he wants to be remembered for his relentless ambition and his “why not?” attitude. To Conor, there’s no such thing as a loss, only lessons. And it’s that drive he’ll be remembered for. “I’m willing to do the hardest jobs. I’m willing to put the hardest amount of work in; go through the hardest battles in order to have my hand raised. It all depends on how bad you want it.”




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