Lawrence Bennett

Lawrence Bennett
"I spoke to a friend, he said I could become a journeyman and earn a few quid.  I scraped through my test spar and got my licence, got my licence and had my first fight which I won.  It turns out I liked the feeling of getting the win!"
That's the surprising tale of cruiserweight boxer Lawrence Bennett (7-1-0) from Swindon.  There are many reasons why Bennett shouldn't have got as far as he has in the world of boxing.  For one, he didn't take up professional boxing until the age of 29.  So surely he had a prolonged amateur career?  Not quite, as he tells us:
"When I was 18 I had a promising athletics career.  But then I did what all teenagers do, I discovered socialising and women!  I was never a drinker, but I enjoyed going out.  Looking back now I should probably have carried on my athletics career!  I picked up boxing in my mid 20's and had two fights as an amateur, won one and lost one.  But it was frustrating, I could train for six months and not get a fight at the end of it. "
Athletics loss may prove in time to be boxing's gain.  At the age of 29 Bennett decided it was time to get the gloves back on and head for the professional game.  “At 29 I tried out a number of gyms and all of them said I was too old and not good enough!” he tells me.  “But then I got my licence – I scraped through my sparring trial and that was it, I was a professional boxer.” 
Unlike most fighters making their debut in the professional sport, Lawrence started by fighting an opponent with a decent record.  He took on Phil Goodwin (6-8-0) in his hometown of Swindon, winning a six round points decision in March 2012.  His next fight came at a total of 18 hours notice – and was across Europe in Sweden.  “I was offered it at short notice, but I had to take it.  I was fighting a kid with a winning record and shouldn’t have been there to win” says Bennett.  He did win though, upsetting the locals and someone else important, his manager!  “I rang my manager and he was shocked!  This kid had four wins and only one loss and now I had beaten him.  My manager said to me ‘You can’t not be a journeyman, you don’t sell enough tickets!!’”
The ticket selling business is key to any fighter starting out – sell enough of them and you get an easier ride, promoters start to favour you.  That wasn’t the case for Bennett.  “I’ve had to make sacrifices, it’s been hard.  Not selling that many tickets means I have had to go in with live opponents – it’s a blessing in disguise.  I don’t have a padded record, which plenty of fighters out there do.  I’ve been fast tracked to this level.”
The level that Lawrence talks about is the verge of the English title.  In only his sixth professional fight Bennett was in a position to challenge for the Southern Area title.  But as usual, it wasn’t an easy road to get there.  He suffered his only professional loss the fight before, against Courtney Richards.  He was beaten on points over four rounds, a loss he admits has served him well.  “It was a hiccup against Courtney Richards, but it was the best thing that happened to me.  I realised I have been cutting corners.  I sat in the changing room after, crying my eyes out and thinking it was all over.”
Far from being over, his career took an unexpected turn.  The loss to Richards came in December 2013 – by March 2014 he was back in the ring taking on Jack Morris (10-1-1) for the vacant Southern Area title.  The fight went the full ten rounds, with Bennett taking a clear 98-94 points victory.  Again, it was an unexpected victory.  “My mate before the fight said to me to just keep my hands up, do what I had to do.  Nobody expected me to hold my own.  What people didn’t realise is that I had been busy putting right what Courtney Richards had exposed.”
It was after this that Lawrence signed up with renowned promotional company Goodwin Promotions.  “I had a brilliant meeting with Steve (Goodwin)” recalls Bennett.  “It was just honest, both sides were honest.  I told him I’m not sure how far I can go but I wanted to find out.  We just clicked.” 
With the Southern Area title now in hand, Bennett had gone from potential journeyman to accomplished professional in the space of six fights.  The adjustment took time – “I would go to boxing centres and they were asking me to hand out belts.  I didn’t know why – then someone would remind me that I was the Southern Area champion!”  Now that Bennett was established in his professional career, he has found that with the success comes further notoriety.  Recently, former Prizefighter winner Wadi Camacho has called out Bennett.  “I was shocked!” he says.  “I’ve watched him on TV picking up the Prizefighter title.  But he doesn’t offer me anything at the moment other than a name – it’s belts that I’m interested in.  I know I haven’t reached my level, the British title is minimum for me.  I feel blessed to be where I am right now and I want to get more belts.”
The quest for belts continues in October for Bennett as he takes on Matty Askin (18-3-0) for the English title.  It is a title already in Askin’s possession, having won it against Menay Edwards in 2014.  However he lost his subsequent challenge for the British and Cruiserweight title to Ovil McKenzie in March of this year – his second attempt at the British title after also losing out to Jon-Lewis Dickinson in 2012.  Does that record give Bennett confidence going in to the fight? 

“I know Askins has a good amateur pedigree and I rate him.  But believe me, a 100% Lawrence Bennett beats Matty Askin.  He will come unstuck just like he does every time he faces a live opponent.  He has all the experience but I’m hungry – what I lack in experience I am making up for every day working my ass off in the gym.”
Should Bennett come through the matchup in October it would undoubtedly be the best win of his career to date.  But so far, that accolade goes to his win against Chris Keane in June 2014.  It was an opponent that Bennett says he was familiar with.  “When I turned pro I knew I sparred him.  I held my own – but everyone was talking about him as he was the ABA champion.  When I came out of the sparring I was confident I could beat him and I hadn’t had a pro fight by then.  When it came to the fight there were all sorts of issues over the gloves on the day.  The fight was off and then it was back on again.  He wanted a certain type, and for his to be new ones.  In the end it got sorted, but it was unbelievable – I only wanted to use them to punch him in the face, the type of gloves weren’t going to help him!  But he’s a good kid, he has a good style and can certainly hit hard.  Everyone knew who he was because of his pedigree, so it made a statement and opened some doors for me.”
Those doors will be flung wide open once again in October if he comes out victorious against Askin.  Bennett goes by the ring moniker of ‘Bad Boy Entertainment’ (“I’m not a bad boy, I was just exuberant as a youth!”).  Come October he will need that exuberance, along with the experience gathered in his eight professional fights to date, to give him his best opportunity at lifting the English belt.  The odds are once again stacked against him – but given this man’s history of turning form on its head and doing what nobody had foresaw, he may have to get used to handing out belts in boxing clubs around the country.
You can follow Lawrence Bennett on Twitter @bennett400