Conor Benn stayed unbeaten with a second round TKO win over Chris van Heerden, smashing the South African southpaw with his explosive power and speed.
Benn (21-0, 14 KO) clearly wasn’t bothered by van Heerden (28-3-1, 12 KO) calling him an “emotional fighter” in the build-up, because he just fought like Conor Benn always does, which, yes, is fairly “emotional.”
In an energetic first round, Benn landed several good shots, but van Heerden was there to fight, too, picking some good counters. Neither of them seemed too bothered — and certainly not surprised by the other man’s approach — but it was also clear that Benn had a sizable advantage with his speed and the ability to explode with big punches, whether they landed or not.
In the second, van Heerden came out moving around, making Benn chase, but it didn’t take long for Benn to land a right hand bomb, and before a minute had passed in round two, van Heerden had been pummeled to the canvas. The referee understandably didn’t even make a count before calling the fight off.
“Anyone they put in front of me, I deal with. I out-box them and then I knock them out, it’s just the way I am,” Benn said.
Asked to name a name, Benn mentioned Kell Brook or Amir Khan as big domestic options, but also tonight’s Spence-Ugas winner, as he doesn’t expect Brook or Khan to take a fight. He mainly said he’d leave it up to Eddie Hearn and Co. at Matchroom Boxing.
Khan had joined Benn in the ring after the fight, but it was friendly between the two of them. They did not rule out a fight in the future.
“The most important thing next for Conor Benn is a big, big fight, and a big step up. The test tonight was the experience and the southpaw (style) of Chris van Heerden. It took one round for him to get used to that before he absolutely demolished him,” promoter Eddie Hearn said.
“And when you demolish the opposition like that, you need to make big jumps. The progression of Conor Benn has been tremendous, we’ve boxed him all over the country. This is a true star of British boxing, this can be a global star. This used to be a gimmick, this is now an elite world welterweight fighter. He’s going to go on and become a world champion. Now we’ve got to step up the competition.”
Hearn named Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Adrien Broner, and David Avanesyan as possible opponents. Of the lot, only Mikey Garcia has had any recent association with Matchroom; Danny, Thurman, and Broner are PBC fighters, and Avanesyan is in Frank Warren’s stable.
“We want a big fight, we want a marquee fight,” Hearn added. “He’s a superstar, and he’s really, really good. We know what we’re doing, and it’s time for a serious test this summer.”
Hearn would end his comments by saying he feels Kell Brook would be “the perfect fight,” but that he doesn’t think Brook wants to do it.
Benn vs van Heerden highlights
Undercard highlights and results
- Chris Billam-Smith KO-8 Tommy McCarthy: These two first met last July, with Billam-Smith winning a split decision to unify the European and Commonwealth cruiserweight titles. That fight was competitive but never quite got the spark, wasn’t terribly entertaining. This wasn’t exactly an all-time classic, but it was more rugged, more physical, and more damage was being done, mainly by Billam-Smith (15-1, 11 KO), who started breaking McCarthy (18-4, 9 KO) down. After seven rounds, both looked a little gassed, and it seemed the fight could either turn into a war of attrition or something of a clinch-fest. We kinda got neither, as Billam-Smith landed a series of hard, clean shots that put McCarthy down, and referee Jon Llona Fernandez didn’t even complete the count, because McCarthy just wasn’t getting up. He took too many good shots and Billam-Smith put together a nice finishing combination. A good win and a good fight.
- Campbell Hatton PTS-6 Ezequiel Gregores: Fighting in Manchester for the second time, Hatton (7-0, 2 KO) continued to show the bad habit of fighting like he’s trying to impress the crowd, but also showed the good habit of working hard, having a gas tank that lets him throw a good amount of punches, and occasionally targeting the body nicely. He also got clipped a few times by Gregores (3-10, 0 KO), but in all honesty he just might not have had any fear of the shots coming back. This wasn’t an outing that’s going to impress the people who have their reasonable doubts about young Hatton, but it keeps him busy, and he should be back in June or July, you figure.
- Alycia Baumgardner UD-10 Soledad Matthysse: This fight came together on pretty short notice and was the expected mismatch, with Baumgardner (12-1, 7 KO) easily retaining her WBC 130 lb title with a wipeout win over the 41-year-old Matthysse (17-12-1, 1 KO), who held a pair of featherweight titles some years back. She’s no longer in her prime and didn’t make weight for this fight, but still, Baumgardner made this look a lot easier than Ewa Brodnicka did in a 130 lb title fight against Matthysse in 2019. The biggest fight at 130 for Baumgardner is obviously Mikaela Mayer, but from the sounds of it she’ll try to unify first with Hyun Mi Choi, which is also a good fight, to be fair.
- Jack Cullen PTS-8 Vladimir Belujsky: A nice bounce-back win for Cullen (21-3-1, 9 KO) after his December loss to Kevin Lele Sadjo in a European title fight, and a useful bout for “Little Lever’s Meat Cleaver,” too, as Belujsky (12-4-1, 8 KO) was able to hang tough and survive a couple spots where he could have wound up stopped. The Slovak-Irishman came to fight, had some pop on his shots that Cullen had to respect, and gave the effort, but it was mostly Cullen here, and the referee rightly had it 80-72.