By Jack Tiernan: Conor Benn (21-0, 14 KOs) made his fans proud with a devastating second-round knockout win over the game South African warrior Chris Van Heerden (28-3-1, 12 KOs) on Saturday night in a statement fight at the AO Arena in Manchester, England.
The undefeated welterweight contender Benn, 25, had all he could handle in the first round with the southpaw Van Heerden, who resembled a hungry lion with the way he repeatedly nailed Conor with perfectly timed left-hand counter shots.
By the end of the round, Benn had stopped attacking Van Heerden and looked wary of going near him for fear of getting hit again with his powerful left hand.
In the second round, Benn took a more tactical approach, stalking Van Heerden around the ring until finally lining him up with a
“Everybody thought a southpaw was going to be a problem for me, but I’ll beat anyone they put in front of me,” Benn said after the fight. “A stand by that.”
Was Khan stealing Benn’s Thunder?
In a strange situation, Amir Khan came into the ring to celebrate with Benn after the fight. What on earth was Khan doing inside the ring after Benn’s win? It looked like Khan was trying to steal Benn’s thunder by taking the spotlight away from him.
Fans at ringside seemed to think a fight between Benn and Khan would then be announced. However, when Khan revealed that he was just there to congratulate Benn, the boxing fans booed him.
“I just come here to enjoy the champ, to enjoy the boxing,” said a sheepish-looking Khan. “Everybody enjoyed it today. I’m a boxing fan and I wanted to be here. Champ, you put on a great performance.
“I’m sure he’s going to go far in life,” Khan said about Benn. “He’s going to have a brilliant career. We can only support him, that’s what it’s all about.
“At the moment, I’m spending time with the family, but who knows? I might announce something tomorrow, I might announce something in the next couple of months,” said Khan when asked if he’ll fight Benn next.
“We know money always talks,” said Benn to Khan.
“I made enough money in the game. It’s just about enjoying the time off at this moment,” said Khan making it clear that he won’t take the fight with Benn at any price.
“Once the hunger comes back, let’s see where we go from here,” said Khan.
“No disrespect on my part. If I achieved what this man achieved, I’d be happy,” Benn said about the fabulously wealthy Khan. “He was a world champion. Every young fighter wants to challenge themselves against the best, so that’s all that is,” said Benn.
“He’s a young, hungry lion,” said Khan when asked if he’d like to fight Benn. Who knows? Do the people want to see the fight? It’s tough, he’s a great champion. Let’s see what happens. At the moment, I’m just enjoying my time off.
“I’m going to get back in the gym. This is great motivation, this is,” said an embarrassed-looking Khan.
“No, Amir is here to support tonight, let’s see what happens in the future,” said Eddie Hearn. “The most important thing next for Conor Benn is a big, big fight, and a big step up.
“The test tonight was the experienced southpaw Chris Van Heerden. It took one round for him to get used to that, and then he demolished him.
“When you demolish the opposition like that, you need to make big jumps. I think the progression of Conor Benn has been tremendous, we’ve boxed him all around the country.
“A great crowd in Liverpool last time out, great crowd in Manchester tonight. This is a true star in British boxing, and this can be a global star.
“This used to be a gimmick,said Hearn about how some boxing fans view Benn, seeing him as a fake due to his promoters only matching him against old guys like 34-year-old Van Heerden, and 37-year-old Chris Algieri, and perhaps soon 35-year -old Khan.
“Listen, this is an elite welterweight fighter,” Hearn said about the still untested Benn. “He’s going to go on and become a welterweight champion. Now, we’ve got to step up the opposition. He’s had a great development.
“[Samuel] Vargas, [Adrian] Granados, [Chris] Algieri, Van Heerden, and now it’s time for the more serious players in the division. It won’t be Amir Khan next. He’s not going to be around until the end of the year.
“I’m talking about Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Adrien Broner, all these guys, David Avanesyan. We want a big fight, we want a marquee fight and finally, take him back to London and fill up that O2 as well.
“It’s been a brilliant journey with Conor Benn. He’s a superstar and he’s really, really good,” said Hearn.
Obviously, Hearn is using the word “superstar” loosely in giving that label to the still untested Benn, but oh well. For Benn to be a superstar in the genuine sense, he’s going to need to beat these fighters:
- Errol Spence Jr
- Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis
- Terence Crawford
- Keith Thurman
- Vergil Ortiz Jr
- Alexis Rocha
- David Avanesyan
Hearn didn’t mention that Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia, and Adrien Broner are all well past their primes, and nowhere near the level of the top contenders like Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis, David Avaneysan, and Vergil Ortiz Jr.
It would be best for Hearn to hold off matching Benn against another older fighter. Khan and Kell Brook are in their mid-30s and seen as shot to bits.
If Hearn wants Benn to be respected by the boxing world, he needs to start matching him up against younger fighters because he’s not going to improve facing shot guys.
Tonight’s fight with Van Heerden is in no way going to help Benn compete against a guy like Boots Ennis, Spence, or Crawford.
He’s believed that Hearn has no intention of matching Benn against the likes of Spence, Crawford, or Ennis ever. The general consensus is that Hearn is waiting for Spence and Crawford to vacate their 147-lb titles to move up to 154.
Once that happens, Hearn will have Benn fight for one of the fragmented 147-lb titles, as long as it doesn’t involve him needing to face Boots Ennis or Vergil Ortiz for the belt.