If Chris Van Heerden was a step up for Conor Benn, he was dealt with in the same way as Benn has treated tests put in front of him before as he was crushed in just two rounds in Manchester.
Benn has a way of just cutting through all the niceties in the way he fights. Van Heerden had the capacity to be awkward, he looked like he might be capable of frustrating him and held his own for the first round.
But Benn can be brutal. One straight right had Van Heerden hurt and Benn wiped him out in another five punches. Brutal and brilliant, there is nothing nice about Benn when he steps through the ropes.
His rise is well-timed for Eddie Hearn, whose UK Matchroom stable looks slightly light on star power right now. An big outdoor fight in the summer beckons next. Benn would love it to be against Amir Khan, who got in the ring afterwards to congratulate him. More likely seems Adrien Broner, Mikey Garcia or Danny Garcia.
It is some time now since he stepped out of the shadow of his illustrious father Nigel – the former world middleweight and super-middleweight champion. A big year ahead awaits.
“Everyone thought the southpaw was going to be a problem, but when I say I will beat everyone put in front of me, I stand by that,” Benn said.
This was only the second time that Benn had faced a southpaw, but that did not deter him as he looked to land heavy punches from the opening bell, although Van Heerden looked to match him and caught Benn on the way in.
At the start of the second round, Van Heerden circled the ring before Benn suddenly pounced. He set up an attack with a jab and then landed a huge right down the middle.
Van Heerden was rocked and Benn jumped on him, landing a left hook, a left uppercut, then a right hook and uppercut, before, with the South African covering up on the ropes, Benn landed a chopping right that sent Van Heerden to the floor.
Referee Steve Gray began the count but waved it off long before it had reached ten. The whole fight had lasted just 239 seconds.
Van Heerden was a decent opponent, although not one to get pulses racing – even Benn’s. The last man to beat him was unified welterweight world champion Errol Spence, back in 2015, and his last big break against hot prospect Jaron Ennis in 2020 was ended but a cut in the opening round that led to a technical draw.
Benn is impatient to have the big fights. The pressure is on Hearn to deliver a big fight next for Benn and he has promised a big one this summer. Khan, who surprisingly seems intent of continuing after his loss to Kell Brook in February, could be one option, although Khan apparently has asked for a warm-up fight first. Brook, according to Hearn, priced himself out by asking for £10 million to face Benn.
Khan got in the ring to congratulate Benn afterwards and made no commitment to boxing on, saying he had just enjoyed Benn’s performance. “I’m just enjoying this time off with the family, maybe I will announce something tomorrow, maybe I will announce something in a couple of months,” Khan said.
“We know money always talks,” Benn said. “If I achieve half of what this man achieved, I will be happy. But it’s idols to rivals. Every up-and-coming fighter wants to challenge themselves against the best.”
It is difficult to judge how far Benn can go. He has gone from curiosity to contender since he first turned professional with hardly any amateur experience in 2016. What he has achieved so far had been built on power and an intense ferociousness.
But in the past two years, Benn has compiled an impressive string of victories, each time taking a step forward. Van Heerden was a step up on what he had faced before, but he is still someway off the summit.
“He used to be a gimmick, now he is an elite world welterweight fighter and will go on and become a world champion,” Hearn said. “Now we have to step up the opposition. We want a marquee fight. He’s a superstar.”
Securing a world title fight is far from straight forward too, despite some lofty rankings – he is ranked at No 5 by all four governing bodies. Tonight, Spence and Yordenis Ugas met in Texas for the WBC, WBA and IBF welterweight titles, with the WBO champion, Terence Crawford, seemingly desperate to face the winner. That doesn’t leave a lot of title opportunities to go round.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.