Editor’s note: This article was originally published at DAZN.com.
Conor Benn’s trainer, Tony Sims, believes Chris van Heerden poses a new threat to his fighter on Saturday in Manchester, England (DAZN) but he expects a victory and then a title fight to follow soon.
Van Heerden, a 34-year-old from South Africa, will be the first southpaw Benn, 25, will have met in competitive boxing.
Benn’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, has warned him that the last few fights before a world title can be potential banana skins. The experienced van Heerden is certainly that.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Sims admitted that the adjustment to fighting a left-hander has not been easy for Benn.
“It’s been quite a difficult camp, and the reason I’m saying that is he’s never trained to fight a southpaw before,” he said. “He’s boxed a couple of switch-hitters but never really trained for them.
“This camp’s been different because he’s had to prepare for a southpaw. He’s never done 12 weeks of southpaw sparring before. I think the first few weeks were difficult for him because you have to change your whole defensive mechanism and everything that you’re doing, because obviously they’re coming at you in a different way.
“And where he never had much amateur experience, he hasn’t really boxed a southpaw as an amateur or pro. But he’s into the rhythm of it now, and he’s been sparring well the last couple of weeks. So it’s just about getting used to it, really.”
Benn’s ascent up the rankings began in November 2020, when he defeated Sebastian Formella and followed it up with impressive wins over Samuel Vargas, Chris Algieri and Adrian Granados the following year.
“He’s a world-level elite fighter now,” Sims said. “He’s made massive improvements over the past couple of years, but this will just be another bit of experience for him fighting a southpaw.
“I said to him that it’s come at a good time, really, because what you don’t want to be doing is fighting your first ever southpaw for a world title. And it’s the first time you ever prepare for one. So this sort of fight is a good one at this stage of his career.
“Van Heerden is a world-level opponent who’s been in with some of the best fighters in the world, and he’s been about for a long time. He’s experienced, he’s a southpaw, so to get this experience at the stage that he’s at is gonna be invaluable for him moving on.”
Sims believes a world title fight in in the cards for Benn, but he acknowledges there are plenty of contenders in the division.
“We’ll just wait and see what materializes,” he said. “Because with these world titles as well now, where [Errol] Spence is fighting [Yordenis] Ugas, you’re hearing that Spence could go up in weight after. Now will Terence Crawford still hang around at welterweight or will he move up? You don’t know.
“Boxing moves really quick, and it changes rapidly as well. So we’ll just see what happens and take it one step at a time. But hopefully in the autumn he’ll be in a big fight against a good fighter, and I think he’ll be ready to go then.”
He went on: ‘Definitely within the next year, maybe less than that. We’ve just got to see how everything opens up really and see if fighters move up in weight and things become vacant. Then all of a sudden you’ve got loads of challengers vying for the world title. We’ve just got to see how it goes.”