Conor Benn ripped former IBO welterweight champion Chris van Heerden to shreds in just two rounds on Saturday night. It was a spectacular display from ‘The Destroyer’, as he continues his march to world level. What became clear in the aftermath of the destruction was the fact Benn needs sterner tests moving forward. Having knocked out former world champion Chris Algieri in his previous outing, and now the veteran van Heerden, Benn is ready for tougher opposition. But what form should those tests take? Here are some options for the 25-year-old welterweight sensation.
One thing van Heerden and Algieri have in common is that they are veteran names whose peaks came in the middle of the last decade. Benn was very impressive in dismantling both, but the ease with which he did so means he needs to fight a boxer closer to their prime next. That should disqualify Amir Khan, who Benn brought into the ring and challenged on Saturday night.
‘King Khan’ was last seen getting beaten from pillar to post by the similarly-shopworn Kell Brook, and it is hoped his ring career is behind him. A fight with Benn would not teach us anything we don’t know. Benn would likely stop another post-prime welterweight in double quick time, in a fight where he would make more money than progress. Brook would be a better option, simply by virtue of his victory over Khan, but even then the win wouldn’t do much for Benn.
A more sensible step-up for Benn would be Danny Garcia. The former unified welterweight champion has only lost to the very best, with his three defeats coming in world title fights with Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman and Errol Spence Jr. A great all-rounder, ‘Swift’ would be a stern test of Benn’s skills and a fine measuring stick for where he stands at world level.
Thurman himself returned in February of this year with a win over Mario Barrios. The 33-year-old is looking to reestablish himself after a long lay-off, and would surely relish meeting the unbeaten Benn. This would be a massive jump in levels for the Brit, but in a stacked 147lb division these are the sort of fights you have to win to become a world champion.
Speaking of world champions, Benn is ranked by three of the four major governing bodies. The division’s champions are an intimidating prospect for a fighter at Benn’s stage of development though. WBO champion Terence Crawford is a fixture in the pound-for-pound rankings, while Errol Spence Jr just stopped Yordenis Ugas to add the WBA belt to his IBF and WBC championships. However, the bizarre championship policy of the World Boxing Association does offer Benn another way in. On the same night Spence unified the WBA “super” belt with his existing championships, Eimantas Stanionis defeated Radzhab Butaev to claim the company’s “regular” bauble. The title lacks the prestige of Spence’s newly-won gold, but a fight with Stanionis would be a nice first step to championship level for Benn.
Should Conor be seeking a challenge a little closer to home, UK-based Russian David Avanesyan fits the bill. The current European welterweight champion is a world class talent, having held the aforementioned WBA “regular” strap in the past. He successfully defended that title against the ageing ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley. The 33-year-old is on a run of six straight stoppage wins, and a fight with power-puncher Benn would be exciting to say the least. This is perhaps the easiest fight to make, given the fact Avanesyan resides in the UK.
This only scratches the surface of the fights available in what is one of the deepest divisions in the sport. There are many directions Conor Benn could go in after his impressive showing this weekend. But the most important thing is that he must go up. Fighting boxers on the level of van Heerden and Algieri has been proven to be beneath him. Whoever Benn fights next, it needs to be the toughest fight of his young career so far.