Conor Benn demolishes Chris van Heerden in second round to send emphatic message to welterweight division

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Conor Benn destroyed Chris van Heerden in Manchester  (Getty Images)
Conor Benn destroyed Chris van Heerden in Manchester (Getty Images)

Conor Benn produced an explosive early knockout of Chris van Heerden to lay down another significant marker to boxing’s stacked welterweight division.

‘The Destroyer’ moved to 21-0 as a professional with his 14th career stoppage at Manchester’s AO Arena, delivering a typically vicious KO with 59 seconds still remaining in the second round of Saturday’s main event to successfully defend his WBA continental belt once more.

Another emphatic victory - one that came on the same night as 147lbs champions Errol Spence Jr and Yordenis Ugas clash in a unification bout in Texas - sets the stage for a huge step up later this summer, with promoter Eddie Hearn having namechecked the likes of Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman, Mikey Garcia and Danny Garcia as potential next opponents.

Amir Khan was also present back at the scene of his comprehensive defeat by arch-rival Brook in February and was invited into the ring afterwards as he faced questions over a potential future showdown with Benn, having yet to announce his retirement.

Saturday marked the first time that the undefeated Benn had ever fought a southpaw at the professional level, but it took just one lively opening round for him to get accustomed to the new challenge.

After a competitive first, the 25-year-old unleashed his devastating power early in round two, hurting former IBO world champion Van Heerden - who had not fought since 2020 - with a massive right hand.

Benn then moved in for the inevitably brutal finish, firing off a volley of thunderous shots including another bruising right to the temple that sent his South African opponent slumping to the canvas and forced the referee to wave off proceedings.

On Saturday's undercard, Chris Billam-Smith retained the European and Commonwealth cruiserweight titles with his own ferocious eighth-round stoppage in an eagerly-anticipated rematch against old rival Tommy McCarthy.

Campbell Hatton - son of British boxing great Ricky - notched the seventh straight win of his professional career against Ezequiel Gregores, producing an improved performance that certainly wasn’t without its issues as he fought in front of a hometown crowd for the first time.

Campbell Hatton picked up the seventh win of his professional career in front of a hometown crowd (Action Images via Reuters)
Campbell Hatton picked up the seventh win of his professional career in front of a hometown crowd (Action Images via Reuters)

The impressive Alycia Baumgardner delivered a punch-perfect display to easily retain the WBC and IBO super-featherweight belts she took from Terri Harper in November with a shutout victory over former unified world champion Edith Soledad Matthysse of Argentina.

There was also a bounce-back victory for Bolton super-middleweight Jack Cullen, who put his shock defeat by Kevin Lele Sadjo behind him as he brushed aside Vladimir Belujsky.

Early on in Manchester, there was a big second-round knockout of Mariano Gudino by talented cruiserweight Jordan Thompson.

Light-heavyweight contender Thomas Hart got past Ben Ridings, while there was a surprise draw between Luke Evans and Miguel Cesario Antin. JJ Metcalf also stopped Evgenii Vazem in the fifth round in the first fight of the evening.

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