CONOR BENN showed his destructive intent against Chris van Heerden at the Manchester Arena on Saturday, stopping the first southpaw opponent of his professional career early in their second round.

Benn made a frenetic start to the contest. He was eager to get to van Heerden, almost rushing himself as he looked to strike. He did land heavy shots, bombing in with the left hook in particular. When van Heerden felt the power he held him in clinches. But the visitor showed some competitiveness in that first round. He worked with his lead right, landing counters with it as a hook and adding in a left uppercut when he could. Those counter-punches, occasionally, stilled Benn’s advance, when van Heerden snagged him on the end of his shots.

But soon Benn snuffed the competition out of his opponent. In the second round he threw a magnificent right, that landed with stunning force. Van Heerden was hurt and Benn’s follow up assault, with the right hitting in as an uppercut and then streaking down as a cross, left van Heerden on the deck, ending the fight there and then.

There was sense in matching Benn with a southpaw opponent. It was a learning experience of sorts, albeit a brief one, but it’s time now to step Benn up to sterner opposition.

On the undercard Chris Billam-Smith defended his European and Commonwealth titles in a rematch with Northern Ireland’s Tommy McCarthy.

McCarthy is skillful and he was sharp early on, clipping Billam-Smith with his one-two. But the champion dragged McCarthy into a fight up close. The Englishman worked his jab with solid technique and drove in hard rights, appearing to daze McCarthy at times. McCarthy’s output decreased and Billam-Smith began to take over. He began to punish the challenger too. In the eighth round he had McCarthy on the ropes and hammered in stunning blows to send McCarthy down to the canvas where he was counted out.

Their first fight had been a close, finely balanced encounter. But with his performance on Saturday Billam-Smith showed his continued development. This was an impressive result, one achieved in impressive style.