Tony Sims refused to allow Conor Benn’s controversial return to the boxing ring to interfere with Jordan Thompson’s preparations to dethrone Jai Opetaia.
Benn and Sims had little notice for the 26 year old’s 10-round points victory over Rodolfo Orozco in Orlando, Florida, contributing to Sims’ absence for the some of the final days of Thompson’s training camp for his biggest fight.
On the occasion of only his 16th professional contest Thompson, 30, is attempting to dethrone Australia’s Opetaia, the world’s leading cruiserweight and the IBF champion. Should he win at Wembley Arena on Saturday – the 28-year-old Opetaia is the favourite – he will know that he did so partly because Kevin Mitchell deputised for Sims during his last hard week of training, and also oversaw his last hard spars.
“I’ve got Joe Cordina fighting [Edward Vazquez, in Monte Carlo] in five weeks’ time, but that’s why you have a system of coaches,” Sims responded when asked about his time away from his gym in Essex. “Kevin Mitchell’s been my assistant coach for the last two years, so I was here for a week, I set the programmes out for both of them, and Kevin’s carried the programmes out.
“Kevin works every day in the gym with them anyway, so it’s not really that big a deal. In an ideal world you wouldn’t go away for a week, but that’s why you have two coaches in the gym, so if that happens the other coach takes over. It ain’t really been that much of a problem to be honest – I spoke to them every day. They knew their programmes. Kevin’s done all their programmes; done all the sparring, so it’s been fine.
“[Thompson looks] really good. He’s in fantastic condition. He’s a big puncher – 6ft 7ins. With that kind of frame and power that he’s got, although he’s not as experienced, with that frame and power he’s literally got a chance against anybody. He’s like a genetic freak. That’s why he took the fight, took the opportunity with both hands, because he knows he probably could have done with another couple of fights but he’s a freak of nature.”
Opetaia succeeded Maris Breidis, who has previously used Thompson as a sparring partner, as the world’s leading cruiserweight when outpointing him in July 2022.
“[He’s] very good, from what I’ve seen of him,” Sims continued. “I’ve watched the [Maris] Breidis fight – to beat Breidis the way he did, he’s obviously a good fighter, but is Breidis the fighter he was a few years ago?
“It’s one where we’re going to see how good he is on the night, really. We’ve got home advantage as well, so it makes a lot of difference.
“I’m really confident. [Thompson’s] sparred really well; had great sparring; he’s looked good in sparring. His conditioning looks fantastic, and I’m looking forward to it.”