After dethroning Radzhab Butaev on the Spence-Ugas undercard last month, Lithuania’s unbeaten WBA (Regular) welterweight world champion responded to Eddie Hearn’s comments on a prospective Conor Benn matchup while targeting three-belt titlist Errol Spence Jr next.
Stanionis with perfect retort for Hearn
Eddie Hearn, Benn’s promoter, called the 27-year-old as a “really good fighter” but also said the Lithuanian has “zero profile”, and they’d struggle to sell many tickets for a prospective bout between them.
It’s important to put Hearn’s comments in perspective, especially when he is managing a slow-building star track with Benn. As such, Stanionis has been the latest to describe the 25-year-old as protected, while rubbishing those claims they wouldn’t sell out in London.
Per BoxingScene, the 2016 Olympian said:
“I heard what Eddie Hearn said. They don’t want it, that’s why he said nobody knows me. I just laughed when I heard it, just protecting his guy, it’s his job – promoting a guy for the future – and it would be a very tough fight with me.
But I was just laughing because there is a big, big community of Lithuanians in England and many people would fly over from my home country for that fight too, so we would sell a lot more than 5,000 tickets.
Conor is a good fighter, can bang and has power, but has never fought anyone who would pressure him like I would, he’s been fighting inactive guys. But a fight between us would be a lot of fun.”
That belief is echoed by Russia’s David Avanesyan, though with the 33-year-old European champion under Frank Warren’s guidance, it’s unlikely that matchup will ever materialise given a long-standing rivalry between the promoters means fight deals are notoriously difficult to do.
Stanionis’ win on the Spence-Ugas undercard means he’s now mandatory challenger for Errol Spence’s WBA title. Understandably so, he wants a shot at the full belt, but Spence vs. Terence Crawford for undisputed has long been the most pressing fight to make at 147lbs.
Stanionis is likely to receive a step-aside offer, like he did so a three-title unification between Spence vs. Yordenis Ugas could be finalised and ultimately take place last month.
Accepting a stay-busy fight in the interim has its risks, but there’s no clarity yet on when Spence vs. WBO champion Terence Crawford would take place.
On the predicament, he sees both sides.
“My contract means I am next in line to fight Spence, so will wait for that opportunity. It would be cool if I could fight him for three belts because when you achieve one goal, you create new ones and I want the other belts.
I like a challenge; want to see where I stand, how deep I can dig and go through the fire. I don’t know if Spence will fight Crawford next.
I am a sports fan too, would love to see that fight but am also a young, hungry fighter wanting the biggest fights. I am contracted to fight Spence next, maybe he gives up the belts and I fight somebody else.”
Both champions want to move up, as Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castano 2 is poised to unify the super-welterweight division next month after their first fight ended in a split draw last winter.
Also read: 2021’s Sleeper Fight of the Year: Charlo vs Castano 1 – an action-packed duel
Assuming that’s the case, Stanionis would be fighting for a vacant belt against either Vergil Ortiz Jr or Jaron Ennis – both ranked #1 and #2 by the WBA and WBO right now. Ennis makes his in-ring return against Canada’s unbeaten Custio Clayton (19-0-1, 12 KOs) on May 14. As for Ortiz?
He was forced to withdraw just days before his proposed matchup against unbeaten British boxer Michael McKinson in mid-March, having been diagnosed with rhabdomylosis. We’ll have to wait and see what’s next, but it shouldn’t take too long for the division to finally be settled.