Chris van Heerden has dismissed Conor Benn’s boxing ability ahead of their 12-round Welterweight clash for the WBA Continental Title this Saturday April 16 at the AO Arena in Manchester, shown live worldwide on DAZN (excluding New Zealand and Australia), labelling the 25-year-old an “emotional, angry fighter”.
The former IBO Welterweight Champion (28-2-1,12 KOs) from Johannesburg in South Africa fights in the UK for the first time in his 32-fight career this weekend, having only tasted defeat twice, with one of those losses coming at the hands of current WBC and IBF Welterweight World Champion Errol Spence Jr.
Benn (20-0, 13 KOs) enjoyed a breakout 2021, notching big wins over Samuel Vargas, Adrian Granados and former World Champion Chris Algieri – but ‘The Heat’ believes he has what it takes to put a dent in the 25-year-old’s promising career by inflicting a first defeat on him.
“I’m a much better boxer than Conor Benn,” said van Heerden. “In my opinion Conor is an emotional, angry fighter. He relies on his power. He cannot box with me. He’s not a boxer. He’s a power puncher and I don’t rate him as a boxer. That’s why I’m saying he’s a very emotional, angry type of fighter in my opinion.
“Through the history of boxing we know that fighters hate fighting southpaw fighters. Orthodox fighters always have some sort of trouble fighting southpaw fighters. It’s not the easiest. That’s definitely going to play a factor in my opinion. They see it as a steppingstone fight for Conor, but I see it as a coming out fight for me. This is where I shine and people say, ‘wow where has this kid been?’ I just never got a fair shot.
“Benn has not walked the road I’ve walked. I didn’t have a last name to carry me in my career. I had to do it the hard way. Unfortunately, it comes with a price. His dad is a very famous fighter and I feel like the Benn last name put him in the positions that he didn’t need to work that hard for.”
Now residing in Santa Monica, California, USA the 34-year-old southpaw is eager to test himself against one of the fastest rising Welterweights in world boxing and says the memory of his late father Daniel, who was tragically murdered in 2018, is pushing him on.
“This is why I started boxing, because of opportunities like this. I’ve always wanted to fight in the UK and now I’ve got that opportunity. I’ve never fought in front of a crowd this big. This is going to motivate me. I remember waking up as a boy and watching boxing with my dad in South Africa.
“20,000 people in an arena, all eyes on you for the main event. That’s why I fell in love with boxing, and now I’m finally getting my shot. I lived for this moment. I visualised. This moment is why I wake up every morning. This is what my dad taught me before I even saw this for myself.
“My pops believed in me so much. My dad was murdered in South Africa, it’s been just over three years. I’m in the gym all of the time. Why? Because that’s where I feel my dad’s presence the most. I miss my dad so much, but when I’m in the gym I feel him.
“I left South Africa because of a dream and a vision of one day fighting in a fight of this magnitude. The one man that believed in me was my dad. Eight years ago, I went to my dad and I said, ‘dad, I want to do this. Do you think I have what it takes to do this?’. My dad was the one man that believed in me when there were so many people that said no.
“My dad told me that I’d do it. My dad was my hero. He was my father and my inspiration. This is what this fight means to me. That’s why me and Conor Benn will forever be tied together because he’s helping me make peace with this.”
VAN HEERDEN: I DON’T RATE BENN AS A BOXER
Conor Benn will defend his WBA Continental Welterweight Title against South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden at the AO Arena in Manchester on Saturday, April 16, live worldwide on DAZN (excluding New Zealand and Australia).
‘The Destroyer’ (20-0, 13 KOs) secured a stunning knockout win over former World Champion Chris Algieri last time out in December, taking out the American with a brutal right hand in the fourth round of their top of the bill clash at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.
The 25-year-old contender from Essex holds top ten rankings with the WBA, WBO, and IBF after notching three wins during a breakout 2021 – and the British star believes that 2022 will be an even bigger year for him as he works towards a World Title shot.
‘The Heat’ (28-2-1, 12 KOs), born in Johannesburg, South Africa, previously held the IBO Welterweight World Title from 2011 until 2013, beating Kaizer Mabuza, Sebastian Andres Lujan, and Matthew Hatton during his Title reign.
Now residing in Santa Monica, California, the USA, the 34-year-old southpaw is eager to test himself against one of the fastest rising Welterweights in world boxing and should provide valuable rounds, having only been stopped once by Errol Spence in 32 fights.
A big undercard saw Bournemouth’s European Cruiserweight Champion Chris Billam-Smith (14-1, 10 KOs) rematch Belfast’s former champion Tommy McCarthy (18-3, 9 KOs) following their epic back and forth battle at the Matchroom HQ last summer.
‘The Gentleman’ withstood a late fightback from McCarthy as he edged out a narrow split points decision to add the British and European Cruiserweight Titles to his Commonwealth Title before defending his EBU crown with a points win over Dylan Bregeon in Sheffield.
Manchester Super-Featherweight contender Zelfa Barrett (27-1, 16 KOs) looks to build on his impressive IBF World Title Eliminator win over Australia’s Bruno Tarimo on the Parker vs. Chisora 2 undercard when he challenges European Champion Faroukh Kourbanov (19-3, 3 KOs) – a former opponent of Joe Cordina.
Hard-hitting Cruiserweight talent Jordan Thompson (12-0, 10 KOs) has scored two big first-round knockouts since putting pen to paper on a promotional deal with Eddie Hearn last June, and the 28-year-old from Manchester will be out to impress his home fans again as he works towards his first title shot in 2022.
Hyde Lightweight prospect Campbell Hatton (6-0, 2 KOs) quickly returns to action after earning the best win of his career over Joe Ducker last month, Little Lever’s Jack Cullen (20-3-1, 9 KOs) aims to bounce back from his stoppage loss to Kevin Lele Sadjo in December, and Alnwick Welterweight Cyrus Pattinson (3-0, 1 KO) hopes to make it two wins from two fights in 2022.
“I’m excited to step into the ring with Chris Van Heerden,” said Benn. “Van Heerden is a tough operator and a southpaw who will be in there giving it his all in every round. For my team and me, it’s now about fighting every style that we can face as we continue to head towards World Championship status, and Van Heerden brings something different to the table than I’ve not met before.
“With that being said, this is another stepping stone for me on my journey to the top, I haven’t seen anything in Van Heerden’s previous fights that I can’t deal with, and I expect another explosive victory on April 16. If he comes to fight or wants to box, I can deliver that smoke either way! The AO Arena has to be one of the most exciting venues to fight in. I love Manchester. I get shown a lot of love and support up in Manchester – it’s a fighting city. I bring the entertainment every time I fight, and I can’t wait for April 16.”
“Sometimes it takes ten years for that one year to come around that completely changes your life,” said Van Heerden. “This is my year. I want to thank Conor Benn for taking the fight, knowing that I’m coming to beat him in his backyard. I also want to thank Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing for taking this risk and my manager Peter Kahn for getting this Fight done. I am looking forward to putting on a show in Manchester on DAZN.”
“Conor Benn is fast becoming one of the biggest stars in British Boxing, and he faces by far the toughest test of his career to date when he takes on Chris Van Heerden in Manchester on April 16,” said Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn. “Van Heerden had mixed at the very highest level and faced fearsome Welterweight ‘Boots’ Ennis last time out before the fight was ruled a no-contest due to a clash of heads – he always comes to fight, and I expect a grueling battle for Conor. We are building an action-packed card and have already announced the rematch of one of the Fights of the Year contender between Chris Billam-Smith and Tommy McCarthy and local star Zelfa Barrett’s challenges for the European Title. I expect another blistering statement from Conor Benn lives worldwide on DAZN.”
“We are excited to welcome back one of the brightest prospects in boxing, Conor Benn, to the platform when he takes on former IBO Welterweight Champion Chris Van Heerden on April 16,” said Ed Breeze, EVP Rights at DAZN. “This is another huge test for Conor as he continues his quest to capture a World Title in 2022. We pride ourselves on having the best schedule in boxing. With the announcement of this matchup in April and early May, you will see Canelo Alvarez, Ryan Garcia, GGG, Taylor vs. Serrano, and Conor. All fighting live on DAZN.”