LAWRENCE Bennett could not wipe the smile from his face as he was crowned the Southern Area cruiserweight champion in London last night.

The 31-year-old claimed a 98-94 points decision over Margate’s Jack Morris at the The Ring Boxing Club in Southwark.

Using his jab to keep the home club fighter at bay, Bennett was on top in a cagey, scrappy affair.

In fairness, it was a pick’em fight. The rounds could have gone either way with neither man tackling a stranglehold.

But for all of Morris’ aggression, he never hurt the Jamaican-born Swindonian and it was his cleaner work that won over the ringside judges.

But he will know that it could have been a lot more comfortable for him had he doubled up the jab and taken away Morris’ come-forward style.

When that final bell went in the intimate venue in front of a packed house of no more than 200 people, Bennett, who moves on to five wins and one defeat, was jumping for joy even before the decision was announced.

“I won man, I won,” Bennett told the Adver afterwards.

“Who does that in just their eighth fight? I’m the Southern Area cruiserweight champion!

“But here I am, I’m the champion after six professional fights and only two amateur bouts.

“People doubted me, but I knew, I knew that I could do it.”

Prior to this fight Bennett, who came into the clash on the back of a points loss to Courtney Richards, had been sparring with Dean Francis as he prepares for his British light-heavyweight title bid.

“I won’t lie, Dean Francis throws me around the ring, this lad was nowhere as good as Dean,” Bennett said.

“He never hurt me, he couldn’t hurt me.

“I stayed out of his range, I had the centre of the ring and I knew that I’d won.

“Every time he threw something at me I responded, if he landed a good shot I came back at him and hit him harder.

“This will open a lot of doors for me and I’ll fight anywhere, I don’t care.

“I’ve been to Sweden and won and I now I’ve been to London and won – I’m not scared to come out of Swindon.”

One of Bennett’s biggest concerns coming into this clash was that he had never been beyond four rounds.

Yet, he didn’t tire, he maintained his pace throughout the contest. Yes he was caught several times and he clowned around, but there wasn’t a scratch on Bennett.

“To be the Southern Area champion is brilliant, I want to thank everyone who has helped me get here,” Bennett said. “I thank all the people who believed in me and I’ve proved the doubters wrong.

“I’ve been fighting my whole life, this is for my kids, this is just the start for me.”

“I can’t believe that I went 10 rounds, when they said I was going 10 rounds, everyone laughed, they said no way.”