CHRIS VAN HEERDEN of South Africa is understandably upset at his May 9 date with Frankie Gavin being scrapped due to Gavin signing to fight Kell Brook for the IBF welterweight title on May 30 instead.
However, the 22-1-1 (11) operator, who relocated to California 16-months ago, says the disappointment will not take away his fighting spirit, and the talented southpaw says he hopes the big fights will still come for him. And Van Heerden still wants to face Gavin in the future.
Q: You must be very annoyed at what has happened, with Frankie Gavin pulling out of the fight with you to face Kell Brook instead?
Chris van Heerden: “It’s ridiculous. I’ve been in training camp for six weeks, for what was a big fight. I had signed the contract for the fight. I was under the impression he [Gavin] had too. In fact he Tweeted me that he had. It’s just ridiculous. And this is what kills fighters, not the fights themselves. This kind of thing, it kills a fighter’s spirit. You know, you train your heart out, you get excited and anxious and then something like this happens.”
Q: Has anyone from Matchroom been in touch with you?
C.V.H: “Not with me personally. I believe they got in touch with my promoter, to tell him the fight was off. But me, I’m still waiting. I think they should give me something for my training time, some compensation. I’ve been in the gym today, but I’m thinking, what for when I have no fight? But keeping positive is important and I can do that by being in the gym. A lot of fighters, they can give up over this type of thing. They are never the same. But what helps me is, I’m a man of faith. I believe that when one door closes, the Lord will open a bigger one for me. My faith is what keeps me going.”
Q: You have called out Brandon Rios…
C.V.H: “Yes. I believe I can beat guys of that calibre. I know what I’m capable of. I’ve trained with Freddie Roach and sparred with Miguel Cotto – I was his main sparring partner ahead of his fight with Sergio Martinez, we sparred over a hundred rounds over six weeks – and I think I deserve a fight with a big name. Brandon Rios is a bigger name than Frankie Gavin and I want the opportunity against a big name like him. All fighters dream of fighting the big, big fights.”
Q: And realistically, how much of a chance is there of that fight happening for you?
C.V.H: “Realistically, there is only a slight chance. I don’t see it really [happening] though. He’s not interested in me, because my name is not that big. But I’m pulling for it, and hopefully one of these [bigger name] guys will accept the challenge one day. I have a big following at home and they are desperate to see me in a big fight. It’s another of my dreams to come to the U.K to fight. Gavin can run but he can’t hide. One of these days I’ll catch up with him. One day he’ll be calling me out. And I want to tell you, one of the good things that has come of this is, I’ve had so much support from the U.K fans. It has actually built up my following over there. I have nothing bad to say about Gavin, in fact I’m pulling for him against Kell Brook. If he wins it’s better for me. I still want the fight.”
Q: You have been on good form since relocating to the U.S from South Africa.
C.V.H: “Yeah, I’m 3-0 now, and against good guys, not bums. Cecil McCalla (who Van Heerden defeated by split decision in his last fight, back in January), he was unbeaten. Ray Narh (Chris’ foe prior to McCalla) was a tough guy who could punch. The best of me is still to come. I think I’m close to my peak. The next two or three years will be me at my peak. That’s why I want the opportunity against the big names.”
Q: You have just one loss on your record, a split decision defeat against Nikola Stevanovic, which came in Serbia. Was that a fair defeat/decision?
C.V.H: “I never lost that fight. I was clearly robbed. It wasn’t a setback for me, because people over there came up and told me I won the fight. It was a learning curve for me. I have not lost since.”
Q: How does it compare, boxing in South Africa and boxing in the U.S?
C.V.H: “In America, the quality of preparation is there, in South Africa it is not. In America, you come across such great talent, sparring partners for example – Olympians, champions, all top talent. In South Africa it’s hard to get that in sparring. It’s just not at the same level in South Africa. I came to America and no-one knew me at the time, but now Bob Arum, Oscar De La Hoya, people like that, when they see me they greet me, because they know who I am now.”
Q: Ideally, whoever you fight next, when would you like to box again?
C.V.H: “Well, I’m in training, so any time after May 9th. I just want to fight. I’m just hoping something comes up, on May 9th or after. I really want to fight in the U.K and when I do, I believe I will not just be an underdog, I will have a following myself. The U.K fans are the most passionate and it is my dream to fight there.”