Chris Van Heerden

Chris Van Heerden

“I was 5 weeks into training camp for the (Frankie) Gavin fight when it got pulled!!! I was very upset and disappointed not only did I really want to fight Gavin BUT I looked forward to fight in front of thousands of passionate UK Fans!”
 
That is the viewpoint of Chris Van Heerden, a South African welterweight with an outstanding record of 23 wins with a single loss and a lone draw.  Chris has fought in the far reaches of the boxing planet, including his only loss which came in Serbia.  It may explain why he hasn’t gone back there since!  But his home has always been in South Africa…until recently.  Of course there is a frustration to any boxer falls through.  In this case, Frankie Gavin was pulled from the fight as he was given the opportunity to fight for Kell Brook’s IBF title in May of this year.  His challenge came up short – so how does Van Heerden think his own match with Gavin would have gone?
 
“Gavin is class BUT yes I saw it going the same way - be aggressive, attack the body and break him down!!!”  Says Van Heerden.  So clearly there would have been a game plan if the fight had come off, and one that Brook was clinical in exploiting.  So is the opportunity to fight Frankie Gavin one that would still appeal to the South African?  “Gavin belongs at 140lbs not 147lbs.  The Gavin boat has passed FOR NOW but who knows we might still meet down the line!!! I WANT TO FIGHT IN UK!!!” 
 
Although the boat may have been sailed away from Gavin, the tide in the future may return Van Heerden to the UK shores.  Rumours abound about who Kell Brook may fight later this year for the next defence of his title.  Brandon Rios is one name, Juan Manuel Marquez has been spoken of – but Van Heerden holds his own aspirations over fighting the welterweight champion.  “Now being ranked number eight by IBF puts me ever closer to getting a shot at Brook that's what I really want!!!”
 
There are a lot of pieces that fit in to place for Van Heerden to take on Brook.  He has a stellar record – with the loss in Serbia on points to Nikola Stevanovic and a draw with Page Tshesane the only blemishes on his record, Van Heerden has 12 stoppage victories in his 23 wins – including one over a name familiar to UK fight fans.
 
“Mathew Hatton was not my toughest fight, he spoiled it by holding a lot but still it was something special to fight Hatton, I have nothing but respect for him.”  That fight took place back in 2013 in South Africa.  What is surprising when you look through the South African’s record is that he made his professional debut back in 2006, but is still only 28 years old.  18 months ago Van Heerden took a leap of faith, deciding that he could further his career with a move to the United States.  “I took a risk and stepped out of my comfort zone!! I don't want to be seen as that boxer that always fought in South Africa - now I'm the Road warrior with 4 wins in the USA.”
That step North over the Atlantic Ocean has paid dividends for Van Heerden.  Whereas most visitors to the US may be accustomed to being met by security and tourism, Van Heerden’s trip was to meet up with legendary trained Freddie Roach.  The man who has guided the career of Manny Pacquaio and now middleweight champion Miguel Cotto has been tasked with ensuring Van Heerden is equipped with the tools to challenge for world honours of his own.  He is, of course, a safe pair of hands to entrust a career with. 

“Being with Freddie is special. The man is inspiring and motivating! It has boost my confidence, but Freddie doesn't change me, he works on my mistakes and keeps me  doing what I'm comfortable at doing.  I am definitely a different fighter now though.  As soon as I have a fight I go into a 6-8 week camp with Freddie and get a lot of attention from him.  Each fighter has their own training time so unless we are sparring we have our own time with Freddie.”
 
The link up is bearing fruit.  “I'm now 4 wins from 4 in America and made the move 18 months ago – I will continue to fight in the US now for at least the next 3 years.”  It is probably safe to assume that should the opportunity arise to take the fight with Brook then a fight away from America may occur.  But in the meantime, the man from Johannesburg is living the American dream.  In January of this year he took on the undefeated Cecil McCalla of America in the renowned boxing venue of Madison Square Gardens.  Van Heerden’s view of it?  “Fighting at Madison Square Garden was a dream come true for a boy that has fought most of his career in South Africa, and to top that I had Freddie in my corner!!”
 
The exuberance of Chris Van Heerden is clear to see – almost as if he is waiting for the dream to end or the bubble to burst.  A South African who has now set up roots in America while being trained by one of the most famous and successful coaches in the world.  Not bad for a man from a very humble background.  There is a burning desire to showcase what he is learning everyday at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.  The UK loves a fighter who comes to fight and bring the mix of talent and determination the Van Heerden is in possession of.  Whether it is Frankie Gavin or Kell Brook that gets to welcome him to these shores, it looks a sure fire bet that his disappointment at missing out on a UK fight in the past will be overcome in the future.  A world title around his waist would be a nice present for him to take back to the US.