Conor Benn: I’m ready to challenge for a world title now

Benn is looking to move to 21-0 at Manchester’s AO Arena on Saturday when he takes on Chris van Heerden

Conor Benn believes he is ready for a world title fight (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Conor Benn believes he is ready for a world title fight (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Conor Benn believes he is ready for a world title fight now and is taking a measure of comfort from those decrying Chris van Heerden as an underwhelming opponent this weekend.

Benn has blossomed into one of British boxing’s hottest prospects, having widely outpointed Sebastian Formella and Adrian Granados and stopped Samuel Vargas and Chris Algieri inside the last 18 months.

His pairing with Van Heerden was not the step up in opposition some were hoping for, but the South African southpaw was last in action against another fighter tipped for the top in Jaron Ennis.

As he looks to move to 21-0 at Manchester’s AO Arena on Saturday, Benn, ranked fifth at welterweight with all four major governing bodies, is convinced he belongs among the very best fighters at 147lbs.

“I believe I’m ready for a world title now,” said Benn. “I’m ready for the top dogs now. The proof is in the pudding, it’s not like I’m going to beat a domestic fighter and going ‘yeah, I’m world level’.

“It’s the form that I’m beating Formella more convincingly than Shawn Porter, Samuel Vargas more convincingly than Vergil Ortiz and Amir Khan, Adrian Granados more convincingly than Errol Spence.

“I have come a long way from being a raw novice but I am where I am. People are having a moan about Van Heerden, he was good enough for Ennis in his 26th fight but he’s not good enough for my 21st?

“It’s like a back handed compliment because they’re unintentionally putting me up there with those fighters but saying I’m too good to be fighting them.”

Benn’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, has promised his charge a “mega-fight this summer” provided he beats Van Heerden, with the 25-year-old linked with showdowns against British veterans Kell Brook and Amir Khan.

Brook dispatched long-time rival Khan inside six rounds in a one-sided fight in February and a meeting with the winner whets Benn’s appetite, even if the Yorkshireman seems to be eyeing Chris Eubank Jr.

“The Brook fight is the one I want because I always want to fight the winner,” said Benn, the son of former middleweight and super-middleweight world champion Nigel.

Kell Brook, pictured, overcame Amir Khan in February (Nick Potts/PA)

“Being honest, I probably would have liked the Khan fight more, if he had won. But he suffered a one-sided beating and I have no interest in fighting someone who has just gone through that.

“Kell looked like the Kell Brook of old, so I want that challenge. Kell reckons he’s the best welterweight in the country but I strongly disagree. I reckon I knock him out inside six rounds.”

Van Heerden, who scaled 145.8lbs at Friday’s weigh-in, has won 28 and lost twice in his 32 fights in the paid ranks, with his only stoppage defeat coming against WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence in 2015.

“I’m not overlooking Van Heerden because he can bring whatever he wants,” added Benn, who weighed in at 146.5lbs. “I just believe he cannot live with my firepower.”

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