Conor Benn Lands Valuable Learning Fight Ahead Of Further Tests At World Level

Benn had been chasing fights with Kell Brook and Chris Eubank Jr
15:10, 11 Mar 2022

Conor Benn will face veteran welterweight contender Chris Van Heerden at Manchester’s AO Arena on 16th April. ‘The Destroyer’ puts his WBA continental belt on the line, looking to steer himself into world title contention this year. The Matchroom card will feature support from European and Commonwealth cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith, Zelfa Barrett and Campbell Hatton.

Van Heerden is certainly not the opponent people were hoping for in this fight. Benn had been talking up the possibility of facing either Chris Eubank Jr or Kell Brook in recent weeks. The Eubank bout is more of a long-term aim for both, playing off the history their fathers shared in the ring. Benn is operating as a welterweight currently, while Eubank Jr has boxed as high as super middleweight.

The Brook situation is more complicated. The two fight at the same weight, and the momentum ‘Special K’ gained from his emphatic grudge match win over Amir Khan made this an irresistible cross-generational clash. Benn had certainly been campaigning for the fight, with his Twitter account awash with retweets related to the bout. The 25-year-old had even promised the beaten Khan he would “take care of business for him” in the wake of the defeat. 

But speaking on Instagram last week, the world-ranked welter said, “Fight news should be dropping soon, very soon. And it ain't Kell Brook because ten mil's out of the equation.” Considering Brook has reportedly not decided conclusively whether he will fight again, it is understandable that he has asked for a princely sum. After winning the most lucrative fight of his career, Kell will rightly feel he can earn big bucks for whatever he does next. But it is a shame we have been denied a massively intriguing domestic scrap in the process.

Benn is not in the business of waiting around. A refreshingly active fighter, Conor fought three times in 2021, scoring two knockouts. Defeating Samuel Vargas, Adrian Granados and former world champion Chris Algieri help Benn shake off the “prospect” tag that has hung around him since he debuted. That activity looks set to continue, and if Brook or Eubank Jr then Van Heerden is a decent enough first fight of 2022.

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The 34-year-old South African has seen them all come and go in the welterweight division. While he has mixed in great company, fighting the likes of Errol Spence Jr and Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis, he never wins at the very top level. His record does feature decent victories over former world title challengers Matthew Hatton and Cosme Rivera, and only Spence Jr has managed to stop him in 32 fights. 

This is not the mega-match we were promised when it came to Benn’s next move, but it is a solid learning fight for a boxer still developing the mettle to test himself at world level. This should be the last such fight on that journey. Assuming he gets past Van Heerden, the level of competition must improve further. Whether it is a top domestic foe, an eliminator for a world title fight or a battle for the belts themselves, Benn must use this fight as a springboard. After 20 fights without defeat to sharpen his skills, if Benn isn’t ready for the top now he never will be. It might not be Brook and or Eubank Jr, but the next chapter in the career of ‘The Destroyer’ should be monumental.

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