CROWD pleaser Conor Benn was in no mood for hanging around when he smashed California-based South African Chris van Heerden in little over a round at Manchester Arena, a result which paves the way – we hope – for a real marquee bout next time out.

The Johannesburg-born puncher might have been out of the ring for 16 months and without a meaningful victory in four years but, as both an experienced operator and a southpaw, he represented the latest hurdle for the improving Ilford man to overcome. Once again, Conor rose to the task and completed it in style.

Early indications were that van Heerden might just take some dislodging. Though bested in the opener he did catch the crouching Benn coming in. In the end, that was as good as it was going to get for him.

The second stanza had barely begun before the heavy underdog was tagged and hurt by a straight right. That was all the invitation Conor needed to step in and finish the job as a further punishing burst, culminating in a chopping right, sent van Heerden over in a neutral corner. Referee Steve Gray waved it off without completing his count with the round just 59 seconds old.

“After round one I thought we were going to have a hard fun fight fight but it took one punch to change things in round two,” said van Heerden.

What next then for Benn? David Avanesyan would be the hardcore’s choice. Danny Garcia, Mikey Garcia and Adrien Broner have all been mentioned, so too Kell Brook. Expect a big but fading name to get the nod over a fighter at their peak. Whoever eventually ends up facing Conor in the summer there’s no doubting the ultra-confident ‘Destroyer’ will be ready.

Conor Benn
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

There was a rematch at cruiserweight for the Commonwealth and European titles when Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith, a spit decision winner in the initial encounter, renewed acquaintances with Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy.

This one wasn’t destined to go the distance as “CBS” held on to his belts by virtue of an eighth round KO. Spanish referee Jon Llona Fernandez completed his count at 1-28 with the Irishman, who had been tiring visibly, showing no sign of rising having been floored in front of his own corner by a right that followed of a series of hooks which had seen him in trouble and on the ropes.

The champion had made the brighter start before being tagged by a couple of solid McCarthy rights but by the fourth he was increasingly proving the busier man, stepping it up to deliver a left to the body and a clubbing right that had Tommy looking decidedly unsteady.

Had Chris taken half a step back he might just have finished it there and then but smothering some of his follow-up work the chance of an early finish, for a few minutes anyway, was gone. McCarthy’s reprieve proved a short one however, and at the culmination of an impressive performance Billam-Smith didn’t let the opportunity slip a second time. He finished the job in style.

There wasn’t a great deal to get excited about in the 10-round bout between Terri Harper conqueror Alycia Baumgardner of Detroit and Argentina’s Edith Soledad Matthysse, who had weighed in heavy. Every round on the cards of all three judges going the way of the Michigan lady who was dominant from the opening bell despite never really having to go through the gears against an opponent, approaching 42 years old, who was reluctant to engage.

By the midway point Alycia, switching her attacks from head to body and back again, was already a country mile ahead and while there were a couple of pawing shots from Matthysse along the way, the outcome was clear long before the finish.

Hyde’s Campbell Hatton continued his fistic education and, just six weeks shy of the 20th anniversary of dad Ricky’s bout against Eamonn Magee in this very same arena, he banked a six round shut-out win over late replacement Ezequiel Gregores, a Majorca-based Argentinean. Though well beaten, the visitor ensured that this was a great learning fight for popular 21-year-old.

Having mixed things up nicely and dominated the opener, Campbell had to take a couple of meaty lefts in the next; the screens above the ring showing a slow-motion replay of one of them landing squarely on an unguarded chin at the end of the session. But that was as close to causing a shock as Gregores came with several glancing rights, and an increasing number of body shots in the closing sessions ensuring the far busier Campbell was back on track. Steve Gray was the man in the middle. 

In need of the stipulated win prior to him heading off for an appointment with Kerman Lejarraga in the cauldron that is Bilbao next month Liverpool’s ‘Kid Shamrock’ James Metcalf duly led Russian Evgenii Vazem a merry dance, battering him from pillar to post. Mr Lyson mercifully ended it with 65 seconds of the fifth and penultimate round having elapsed.

I thought Salford’s Luke Evans was a tad fortunate to be awarded a 56-56 share by referee Gray at the conclusion of his six against tough as old boots Argentinean Miguel Cesario Antin. He was twice sent to the canvas, initially by a right early in the second and then, having resettled and boxed his way back into contention, falling victim to an even heavier shot at the top of the fourth. That fall saw him having to dig deep to see out the round, and left him nursing a cut above the right eye.

Luke wasn’t finished though and came out for the fifth with renewed vigour, so much so that after shipping a weighty right the 28-year-old visitor was docked a point that ultimately cost him victory for excessive holding.

Antin’s fellow countryman Mariano Angel Gudino went in with Manchester’s hard-hitting Jordan Thompson in a contest fancifully scheduled for eight. The taller local, looking extremely confident, moved quickly onto the front foot and it wasn’t long before he found a gap, hurting Gudino with a right to the body mid-round.

Worse was to come in the next for Mariano, Jordan rifling home a right uppercut which sent him over backwards. He was up at a count of eight but clearly in no position to continue and referee Mr Lyson rightly called it off with just 45 seconds having gone.

“Little Lever’s Meat Cleaver” Jack Cullen banked his 21st paid victory with an increasingly one-sided distance victory over eight. Referee Steve Gray scored him an 80-72 winner over Irish based Slovakian Vladimir Belujsky.

I thought Belujsky might just have nicked the opener but by the third Jack had settled and from that point onwards there was no looking back. Belujsky still found gaps to score with single decent shots but he held regularly in the later stages.

Liverpool light-heavy Thomas Whittaker-Hart was also victorious over eight with Mr Lyson scoring him a 78-74 winner over Bury’s always game but ultimately outclassed Ben Ridings. Ben, who finished with a cut to the right eyebrow, kept it watchable despite being guilty at times of waiting too long but it was Whittaker-Hart on the front foot for the most part and scoring regularly to the body, who was deserving of victory.

The Verdict Time to remove the stabilisers and let Benn loose on a live opponent.