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Chris Van Heerden: “I’m a force to be reckoned with”

Chris Van Heerden
Chris Van Heerden

By Anson Wainwright

Over the past year, Chris Van Heerden has graduated from the national level in South Africa to the international scene, along the way beating countryman Kaizer Mabuza and most recently grizzled Argentine veteran Sebastian Lujan. Both were wide decisions (against former world title challengers) whilst winning his IBO welterweight crown (against Mabuza) and then defending it (against Lujan). The Lujan win was an interesting measuring tool when you think he lost a competitive fight to Antonio Margarito in 2005 when the fight was stopped due to an unsightly cut around his ear (a by-product of obstinate toughness at the very least). Lujan also lost decisions to Sergiy Dzinziruk and Mike Jones making him Van Heerden’s most notable opponent and best win to date. “The Heat” has only recently turned 25, seems to have a considerable upside and intends to showcase his talents in America and Europe in the future. So far, the Johannesburg native’s record stands at 18-1-1 with 10 wins inside the distance; the lone loss was to Nikola Stevanovic (in Serbia) up at light middleweight via split decision, marking the only time he’s fought outside of South Africa. Next up will likely be a stay-busy fight before meeting Matthew Hatton in February in what is expected to be one of the biggest fights ever to take place in Cape Town as a celebration for Nelson Mandela, a huge boxing fan.

Anson Wainwright - On 16 June, you beat world-rated Sebastian Lujan. What are your thoughts on that fight?
Chris Van Heerden - It was a true test for us to see if I could stand in the ring with a man who not only has fought with some of the best and most world renowned welterweight champions. It has brought me a whole new confidence and [approach] to our training method. I’m moving fast and changing and perfecting my style and defence and attack from fight to fight. I showed skilful boxing abilities by schooling and taking control from round one to round 12. My speed and crafty defence took away Mr. Lujan’s strengths to dominate. It has proved that I’m a force to be reckoned with and will soon be on the big stage.
AW - Tell us about your training for Lujan. What is your walk-around weight and what was your diet for this fight?
CVH - I will train out in Johannesburg in a 10-week span away from family. I walk around about 70kg (154 pounds). I’ve got a special diet prepared.
AW - Though it’s early days, what are your plans next? Who are you looking to fight?
CVH - It is now time to showcase myself around the world in the U.S., England and Europe. I’m earning my rightful place in the world of boxing.
There are so many welterweights out there to choose from, because it is the most active division in boxing, so we need to scan carefully who will bring us closer to that number one spot. Many to choose from but we have our eye on a few good men. The likes of Paulie Malignaggi, Matthew Hatton, etc. would be credited opponents. I believe it will create huge hype as I continue to do what I do best: win. Then when stage three is done, I can take on [Saul] Alvarez, [Victor] Ortiz, Manny Pacquiao and the best of them all, Floyd “Mayday” [Mayweather].
AW - The welterweight division is very strong at the world level at the moment. How far away from the top guys do you think you are? Are you targeting anyone?
CVH – Well, after [beating] Lujan, I should be in the Top 10, not too far away from the big boys. My dream would be to get a shot against any big name out in Vegas.
AW – Previously you beat former world title challenger and fellow South African Kaizer Mabuza. Can you talk us through the fight from your point of view? Also, how happy were you with your performance?
CVH - Kaizer was no pushover; he’s a hard puncher and very strong. We studied him over and over. My trainer Peter Smith prepared me to be in top shape. After round one, we knew he wouldn’t stop me; he was too slow. As the fight progressed, we started running away with the fight. I almost had him down in round 10 but he survived.
AW - Can you tell us about your team? Also where do you regularly train?
CVH - I’m with the best team South Africa can produce. My manager and trainer is Peter Smith, former heavyweight boxer in his time, and am currently being promoted by Golden Gloves Limited [headed by ] Rodney Berman. I’m training out of the Smith Gym.
AW - What was your upbringing like in Johannesburg? Were things tough for you? How did you first become interested in boxing?
CVH – Well, I was brought up very hard in life. My dad was a boxer in his time as well, so my dad made sure of raising me hard. I come out of a loving and caring family and have been looked after very well. As I said, my dad was a pro boxer. He introduced me to the sport at the age of seven.
AW - Tell us about yourself as a person. What do you like to do away from boxing? What are your hobbies and interests?
CVH - I’m a down-to-Earth guy, a lover of Jesus Christ, my saviour. I love hanging out with my friends at times but I’m more of an on-my-own-type of guy, going to the movies or [I’ll] just stay at home and relax watching DVDs.
AW - If you weren’t a pro boxer, what do you think you’d be doing with your life?
CVH – Well, I finished school with honours to study further in accounting. [I] guess that’s what I would have done.
AW - What are your thoughts on boxing in South Africa at the moment? Who do you consider the best boxers? Do you have some younger guys who could make an impact on the sport in a few years?
CVH - Boxing in South Africa is slowly getting huge on the world scale. I consider myself as the best. My teammate, Kevin Lerena, is a youngster in the cruiserweight division, currently 3-0 with three KOs.
AW - Who was your boxing hero growing up and who do you admire today?
CVH - Sugar Ray Leonard and I am a huge [Floyd] Mayweather fan.
AW - Finally in closing, do you have a message for the welterweight division?
CVH - Yes I do. The Lord says in [2] Timothy [1.7], “I have not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit or power.” I respect every fighter out there; all I’m asking is for respect in return. Remember this name: “The Heat.”
Questions and or comments can be sent to Anson at and you can follow him at Anson is also a member of The Ring magazine’s ratings panel.
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