“Chris Van Heerden will find out how good I am as a boxer”

Conor Benn is ready. He is ranked in the top five welterweights in the world with four boxing federations and is poised to become world champion sometime in 2022.

This weekend he’ll be back in the ring against South African southpaw Chris van Heerden, who didn’t flatter Benn’s boxing skills to say the least. Between final sessions, while Benn is “sharpening the knife,” we took a moment to talk about Van Heerden, fatherhood, upcoming fights, and his plans for 2022.

Men’s Health: Since we last spoke, you’ve beaten Samuel Vargas in 80 seconds, beaten Adrian Granados, and KO’d Chris Algieri. They weren’t bad years for you, were they?

Conor Benn: No, it’s been a great few years to be honest. I think over the last few years everything has really come together and is now coming together.

You’ve also had a child since we last spoke [Benn and his wife Victoria welcomed a son, Eli, into the world in January 2021] How has fatherhood changed your life?

It’s just a blessing. It makes me think about who I am, what I represent, what I stand for and what kind of role model I will be for my son.

The last time we spoke again was during COVID. I think you actually lived with your father [former boxer Nigel Benn]. Is that over now and do you miss having him around or do you like having some distance between you two?

I definitely miss it. My father is always living in the house. I mean he has such a presence. about him. He’s actually calling me right now (Conor picks up the phone to take a call from his dad). I always miss him man he’s like a brother to me. Of course I respect him because he’s my father, but he’s just such a man.

Has your relationship with your father changed since you had your own son? Has becoming a father changed your perspective on how your father treated you?

Yes, my father was a disciplinarian, 1,000,000 percent. I didn’t understand it then. I probably won’t be as hard on my son, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t be where I am now if my dad hadn’t disciplined me the way he did. I wouldn’t have applied, and I wouldn’t have been as disciplined with my education, so to be fair, it did me good. I think my dad taught me a lot of great things, not on purpose but just the way he treated me, in terms of discipline, in terms of the value of money, which I think is so important.

The value of money is an important lesson I will teach my son. I never felt entitled to what my father is, ever. I had to go out and earn what was mine. I lived in a mansion because of him, but this is his. I had that luxury, but if I want my own money, I have to go out and earn it.

You’re about to fight Chris Van Heerden, so how’s your preparation going?

yes great I didn’t fight an orthodox fighter in that camp, I fought southpaws three days a week. I’m just ready to get in there and show off my boxing skills, boxing IQ and mindset, adapt and get through the fight.

What will your last week of preparation and training look like? What will you do?

Just really sharpen the knife, so explosive, short, sharp sessions. The long, grueling sessions are over. I’m not getting fitter. I’m not getting stronger. It’s more about tactical and sharp fast work than grueling physical training.

Does your training differ inside and outside the camp?

Outside of camp, I enjoy the types of lifts I shouldn’t be doing. When I tell my S&C trainer about the weightlifting I do, he says you can do it outside of camp, but when we’re at camp we just do sport-specific moves. I love the old bicep curls, the shoulder flies, the 21s. I enjoy weight lifting.

“I like the pump. I like feeling strong.”

What appeals to you about such an apprenticeship?

I just like the feeling. I like the pump. I like feeling strong. I just love weightlifting. it is what i do I also enjoy running, but I wouldn’t equate it with weightlifting. You will always see me at the gym after each of my fights. You always catch me at the gym lifting weights.

I read some quotes from Van Heerden today. He says: “You are not a boxer and trust in your strength”. What would you say to that?

Just ask Algiers. Ask Samuel Vargas. I mean it clearly works. Or if you want to talk about boxing, ask Sebastian Formella. I think all these fighters get the same script because it’s the same old crap, except Van Heerden is a year late to the party. it won’t make any difference what he thinks, to be honest, because if that’s what he really believes, he’ll soon find out. Do not worry about it.

There has been talk of you fighting Kell Brook at one point. Is this a fight you want?

It’s a fight I would 1,000,000 percent take, but maybe not a fight he wants.

Brook is 10 years older than you. If you’re his age, do you still want to box?

I will not engage in fights. I may be involved in boxing, but I won’t be fighting in 10 years. Under no circumstance.

Can you imagine taking the coaching path or something?

I wouldn’t go the coaching route. I would probably do the TV work outside of boxing. That would be my goal because when you’re training a fighter you still have to show up before the fighter. My trainer shows up half an hour before one of the fighters shows up and leaves half an hour after someone leaves. He applies and has to get up early and get the grueling cold mornings done. I like to think that in the next four or five years or so I’ll have my fair share of the graveyard shift done.

Will 2022 be the year you will be crowned world champion?

CB: I think so. I believe that I will win a world title this year. I think I can win a world title. I’m in the top 5 governing bodies now, so it’s really just a matter of time.

Have you already imagined the moment when the belt is wrapped around your waist?

Yes. I mean I take every fight as it comes. I don’t look past Van Heerden. Right now I’m picturing myself beating Van Heerden and letting everything else take its course.

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