Chris van Heerden looks to make his mark tonight against Errol Spence Jr.
Welterweight Chris van Heerden is confident going into his fight against Errol Spence Jr. on Premier Boxing Champions tonight.
How could he not?
He has successfully made the transition from being an unknown fighter from South Africa to a contender, is trained by Freddie Roach and has the opportunity to defeat the unbeaten Spence.
Some may disagree that van Heerden could upset Spence, who is in line to become a top contender and face the best in the division within the next year but he is all in. Regardless of the criticisms he has heard in the lead-up to the fight, van Heerden is very motivated to perform well, which could lead to more exposure in the near future.
Van Heerden and Spence will square off in a 10-round bout at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The bout will precede the main event between RING light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson and Tommy Karpency. Spike TV will begin its telecast at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
The odds may be stacked against him but van Heerden (23-1-1, 12 knockouts) has mixed confidence with believing he has fought against the better opposition. Whether it was against the likes of Matthew Hatton or Sebastian Lujan in South Africa or in the United States against Ray Narh or Cecil McCalla, van Heerden was able to grind out wins.
He has won his last nine bouts in a row since a close and disputed, 12-round split decision loss to Nikola Stevanovic in May of 2010. In his last bout on May 13, van Heerden stopped Ramon Ayala after the fourth round in Hollywood, Calif., not far from his new home in Santa Monica.
The 28-year-old van Heerden believes he is at the peak of his career, noting Spence has yet to fight a boxer with as much experience against world-class competition.
“I’m focused on Errol Spence,” van Heerden told RingTV over the phone. “I believe this fight is more about being ready mentally. If he doesn’t respect me, I’ll have to make sure to do a lot so he will respect me.”
What has been troubling to van Heerden has been the lack of publicity his fight against Spence has received.
In fact, numerous media outlets and social media have focused more on Spence fighting the top welterweights in boxing, which include Danny Garcia or Keith Thurman. It could happen as early as next year for Spence but some may think the lack of attention toward van Heerden could be disrespectful.
Van Heerden has taken it all in stride.
“It seems as though I haven’t gotten any recognition,” he said. “I get it. Spence could be the next [Floyd] Mayweather [Jr.]. It has given me more motivation. If I perform well, then people will be talking about me more.
“When I came to this country, I wanted to fight the big names in boxing. Unfortunately, my promoter [Michael King] passed away [earlier this year]. I had a stay-busy fight but I know what I am capable of. I’m well-aware of the risks I would have to take to receive the big fights or the fights on television. A lot of people miss out on these opportunities because they don’t take risks. I don’t mind taking risks.”
Since arriving to the United States almost two years ago, van Heerden has won his last four bouts, two of which were televised on ESPN2 and FOX Sports 1.
His work in and out of the ring have not gone unnoticed. Van Heerden was employed as a sparring partner for RING middleweight champion Miguel Cotto when Cotto was preparing to fight Sergio Martinez in June of last year. He was also used as sparring for Canelo Alvarez when the popular Mexican was prepared to face Erislandy Lara in July of last year.
According to van Heerden, during his sparring against Cotto, he caught the eye of Freddie Roach, Cotto’s trainer.
“He told me he liked what he saw and he wanted to work with me. I saw an improvement immediately while working with Freddie.”
The deck may be stacked high against him but van Heerden’s confidence and perseverance may be a lot higher. Riding a winning streak, along with one of boxing’s best trainers, will certainly give fighters that extra chip on their shoulder.
He may be a long way from his hometown of Meyerton, South Africa but he feels he has found who he really is, not only in the welterweight division but here in the United States.
Win or lose, van Heerden is eager to put the 147-pound weight class on notice.
“My dream was always to fight on American soil. I’ve been able to do that and I’ve accomplished a lot. Now I’m blessed to have this opportunity [against Spence]. I’m very excited. I’m confident that I will be at my best and that taking this big risk on a huge platform will pay off.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.