Swindon to Sweden with Lawrence Bennett
“I thought he said Swindon, but it wasn’t Swindon it was Sweden!”
It was only his second professional fight but cruiserweight Lawrence Bennett was about to go on the road. That road would involve a trip to Stansted, a flight, another drive, a sleep and then a fight against Stefan Schallengruber in the city of Linkoping, located in southern Sweden.
After outpointing Phil Goodwin on his professional debut, Bennett’s manager ‘Keith’ received a call about a fight after one boxer had already pulled out. It didn’t take long for Bennett to agree to the proposal after looking at his bank balance.
“I didn’t have a job at the time,” Bennett (7-1, 1 KO) told Boxing Monthly. “My manager said to me: ‘We’ve got a fight’ and I asked when it was and he said tomorrow. I’m thinking how am I going to get to Sweden in time for tomorrow and he said you’re going to have to go home, get your kit, drive to Stansted and get there.
“I sat there for five minutes, and I said we’re doing it. I didn’t know the opponent but he’s got two arms, he’s got two legs, he’ll think I’m coming to fall over but I’m coming to fight. I want to win.”
After being picked up at the other side, Bennett was then driven for three hours which was followed by a couple of hours of much needed sleep. Bennett says the Scandinavian gamble was the best thing he ever did for his career.
“There was no pressure on me, I was so determined and I knew he had a winning record [Schallengruber was (4-1, 2 KOs) at the time] so I said I can take a shot let’s see if he can take a shot.”
In only his second fight, Bennett was about to go in front of the TV cameras inside the Cloetta Center in front of four-and-a-half thousand people. After burning the midnight oil as a youngster watching Mike Tyson fill out arenas in America, Bennett’s unlikely adventure was about to sample a small taste of the spotlight.
“People were coming up wanting my autograph. I got some free protein bars and drinks, shirts, brand new gloves and I was like ‘Wow’,” recalled the Southern Area cruiserweight champion and former schoolboy athlete.
“I thought this is it and, if I can shine on this platform, then I’ve got the making to do what I need to do. I said to myself this is your defining moment. I went out and the crowd were dancing and I thought just get on your jab. Just let him know you’re here to fight and see what he does. And I hit him with a jab and he didn’t see it. I said to myself hit him with a left hand and let’s see what he does and I thought I can beat this guy. And that was it.”
In just two fights, Bennett went from the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon to the Cloetta Center in Sweden. Some 1,200 miles separates each venue but the result was the same each time, a win for Bennett.
His personal rollercoaster took a dip for the worse, however, when he lost to Courtney Richards [a 21-year-old who at the time had one win and one loss under his belt to Danni Griffiths] in his fifth outing.
There had been doubts post-fight about whether to continue. Losing to Richards wasn’t acceptable for Bennett and, if he couldn’t beat someone of his ilk, then what would be the point of continuing? After shedding some tears believing the dream was over, it was time to dust himself off once again and vow to never make the same mistakes he did in preparing for the Richards fight.
Bennett had been tired after round one, his training hadn’t been up to its usual work ethic and he admits he took his foot off the gas. The hunger wasn’t there.
“Courtney Richards is a good test but I don’t think he’s championship level,” he said. “But if you’re not ready for him you’ll get found out and I got found out.”
Bennett also found out how certain friendships work in boxing.“A lot of people walked away from me, friends that I thought were friends. People who are there when you’re winning.”
With a kick up the backside, Richards told BM that if he ever gets beat again he is adamant it will not be on fitness or heart. “Those things that happened to me against Courtney Richards won’t happen again.”
A majority of Lawrence Bennett’s boxing career has been spent proving himself and the doubters wrong. Turned away from gyms, told to pursue another career, written off in quarters in fights against Jack Morris, Chris Keane and Jamie Hearn. Three contests which saw his win column go from four to seven. Yet, if it all ended with defeat to Matty Askin on 17 October, Bennett would look back on his career with pride and joy – particularly after winning the Southern Area title against Morris last year.
“I could look back and say to my kids: ‘Listen, Daddy started with two amateur fights and I went out there and won the Southern Area, I fought for the English title and I knocked it on the head.’
“When I started boxing I only wanted to fight for the Southern Area, I said to my friends: ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if I fought for a Southern Area title?’ To me, I used to watch the old Sky Sports shows when they had Southern Area title fights and I was like ‘That looks really cool’. To me, that was winning the world title.
“I remember when I went to a British Boxing Board meeting and they said: ‘Listen, if you’re ever lucky enough to fight for a Southern Area that’s the biggest area in boxing so if you’re ever to fight for it, you’re pretty much fighting for three quarters of England’. If you win that you’re on the way.”
One door opened after Bennett’s first professional fight, one that led him to Scandinavia. Doors subsequently opened after the Morris victory which saw him face off against the big-punching Chris Keane. Now, Bennett looks for others to be unlocked when he takes on his biggest test to date in the shape of former British and Commonwealth cruiserweight title challenger Matty Askin on 17 October at York Hall.
“I feel I’m at that level and if I’m going to move forward I have to beat those guys,” Bennett told BM. “A lot of people are saying hang on where’s this kid’s coming from? He’s had eight fights, he started as a journeyman, he’s got no amateur pedigree why is he beating these kids? But I like that."