Conor Benn has gone on a crash course in fighting southpaws ahead of his fight with Chris Van Heerden on Saturday night. He’s not anticipating any difficulties at Manchester Arena on Saturday night and predicts things will only end one way.
“I think I’ll fill him in, to be honest,” Benn said. “I’m prepared for a hard fight. It could go a hard 12 rounds.
“I’m not overlooking Van Heerden, because he can bring whatever he wants. I just believe he cannot live with my firepower.”
Van Heerden is the first southpaw that Benn has faced. But Benn tends not to let things like that worry him. In six years as a professional, Benn has gone from curiosity to contender. Some now believe he is the biggest star in Matchroom’s DAZN UK stable, but he is not feeling any pressure to perform.
“No because first off I’ve achieved more than I thought I would in the beginning,” he said. “I also feel like I’m built for this. It’s just the way I am, I always deliver and I always rise to the occasion. That pressure doesn’t fall on me so much.
“The fact that we are so close to reaching that goal we set out to six years ago, it makes me work even harder and challenge myself and push myself even more. It’s six years of hard work, not just 12 weeks of training camp.”
It is not beyond Benn’s attention that later on Saturday night Errol Spence and Yordenis Ugas meet to unify three quarters of the world welterweight title. Obviously fewer champions means fewer chances for contenders like Benn, who has been promised a huge summer fight by Eddie Hearn if he beats Van Heerden. But Benn feels he has done enough to step into the ring with either Spence or Ugas.
“I want to test myself against the best in the division,” Benn said. “Every challenge they put in front of me I come through it. I trust my team, they know what they’re doing. They haven’t put me a step wrong in my career. I’m top 5 in every governing body and No 1 in Britain.
“I do concentrate on myself. When I was out in Vegas recently, we tried to make the sparring with Ugas because me and Ugas speak. He kept saying we would spar, he knows the score and knows what was going on but we ended up sparring Gamboa and he had to get pulled out of the spar.”
Benn said he had spoken to Ugas about sparring, but Ugas told him he would rather go to dinner with him, something Benn found rather odd.
“It’s not that we are from the same country or live the same lifestyle so I was thinking ‘Why does he want me to go to dinner?’” Benn said. “What are we going to do? Sit there and stare at each other. I don’t know what his motive was. When I showed Tony (Sims, his trainer) the messages, I was like ‘He’s definitely just bottled this spar. There’s no way around it’.”
But Benn loves sparring, so the work he has done with southpaws in this camp has been enjoyable.
“I’ve done a lot of southpaw sparring and I love challenges, I love overcoming them,” he said. “I have shown in my last few performances that I can beat any style put in front of me.
“We did plan on going on a bit of a tour of some American gyms for sparring but then Covid hit. Eventually we will get out there, of course.
“All southpaws are hard work, they are completely different. It’s all back to front really. But I’m finding a home for my shots.”
One this Benn is sure of, though, is that Van Heerden is n for a difficult night.
“When I hit him I’m not just going to try and hit him and let him off,” he said. “I’ll hit him hard and really let him know from the get go. Let him know he’s in with a real dog.
“I’ll fight anyone they put in front of me. I’m honestly not really that fussed. Whoever they put in front of me is going to get it.”
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.