"The welterweight division is so exciting. They have a lot of superstars there...Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, and you still got Kell Brook out there. Even though I don’t know what’s happening with him, he’s a good fighter. It’s just exciting and I honestly believe that I belong there...I have already faced the guy that people are afraid to face and are scared of and the most dangerous guy and that’s Errol Spence...I don’t have any fear. And I believe and I know that I can go with these boys," stated welterweight contender Chris Van Heerden, who talked about his future plans and much more. Check it out!
PC: Congratulations on the signing; you recently signed with “Real Deal” Promotions, which is Evander Holyfield’s outlet. I’m sure you are thrilled about having a home.
CVH: Absolutely! That means I will be back in the ring, that means I will have more frequent dates, and that means America will get to see me on television; CBS Sports. I’m excited. You know, as a kid from Sudafrika, to be associated with Evander Holyfield, the heavyweight champion of the world, to me...at the end of the day, I want to get back in the ring. I want to fight. I want to be on television. People want to see me. I want to get out there and work my way back into the top 15. So I am excited, brother. 2018 is going to be a change for me.
PC: Your last fight was October of 2016. What have you learned most about yourself during this layoff, because layoffs for fighters could be very trying times?
CVH: One year since I last fought and I’ve been in the gym probably 95% of the time. It was a big 2017 for me. Even though I didn’t fight, I was in a lot of talks because of the whole Conor McGregor thing. I was a possible opponent for Manny Pacquiao, then I was a possible opponent for Jeff Horn, and I was going to fight Lamont Peterson at one stage. So my name got out there a lot in 2017. A lot of people heard about me. A lot of exciting fights that almost got made. That kind of kept me hanging because of all of the negotiations. At the end of the day, I remember at the start of 2017, at one point, I was #10 in the world by the WBA, I was #10 by the WBO, and #13 by the IBF. With all of these negotiations, frustrations, and talks, being inactive, I lost my rankings. But I guess what I learned about myself the most in 2017 is that I still want it as much as I have ever wanted it. I’ve been in the gym every single damn day and even through all of this frustration, it still didn’t keep me out of the gym. I have a lot of people telling me that this break may have been a good thing. I haven’t been in any wars and my body is recovered and I feel good. I feel sharp and for the last 4 weeks, I’ve been sparring with a bunch of good guys and I feel sharp, I feel good, and I just want to make it back.
PC: I know it’s been a bit of a layoff. Are you still competing at welterweight and can we expect for you to get a catchweight fight in, like at 150 or so, just to be sure your body responds correctly?
CVH: You know, I’m still competing at welterweight, but like you just said, you nailed it, the welterweight limit is 147, so we’re preparing to get a comeback fight at 149-150 just to get back at it. But after my sparring yesterday, I was 153, so I’m not that far out. I could really make 147, but if it’s a comeback fight, I don’t really want to kill myself. But who knows, I’m still competing in the welterweight division. I wasn’t sitting around being lazy and disrespectful to the sport. I stayed in shape and I’m ready to fight tonight.
PC: You said you have been in the gym 95% of your layoff. What keeps you motivated at this point?
CVH: My brother, I’m so glad you asked me that. People ask me all of the time, “Chris, you’re always in the gym, how do you do this with all of these things going on?” What keeps me motivated, my brother, is my vision. I’m motivated by the fact that I still see myself fighting for a world title. I still have this dream and I see it in my mind. My vision motivates me. As long as I have this vision, I believe that it is meant to be. That is what motivates me, and on second thought, being from South Africa, boxing is a sport that’s dying in my country simply because it doesn’t have any role models. They don’t have enough of us competing internationally, like in America. There is no one to motivate them and that is what motivates me. I want to be that light of hope and little bit of motivation to keep boxing alive there. If I’m going to slack off and be lazy, then I’m going to destroy a lot of their dreams. That’s what motivates me. I need to achieve my vision and that’s why I traveled to America. You know one thing that I have discovered, and I want to share this with you, all of this time, I thought boxing was my purpose in life. Boxing is not my purpose in life, boxing is my foundation. My purpose in life is to give back. I’ve been blessed to rub shoulders with some celebrities, famous boxers, and famous trainers. My purpose in life is to go back and share my story, my journey, and my achievements with the kids back home in South Africa and share the word of the Lord. And tell them that because of my faith and because of my vision and my belief and trust in God’s plan, Jesus Christ's plan for my life, this is why I’ve achieved what I achieved. So you ask me what is my motivation; that is my motivation, to go back home to South Africa and motivate kids that love this sport so much.
PC: When we last spoke, you said that you had a few things in motion. Was the “Real Deal” Promotions deal one of them or did that come out of left field?
CVH: That was one of the things, but it wasn’t what we were working on. We almost got the deal done with Jeff Horn after the Pacquiao fight fell through. We almost got the deal done with Jeff Horn. We didn’t get that fight because they didn’t want to take a risk. At the end of the day, they figured it was too much of a risk. Horn’s people had an option on a possible rematch with Pacquiao and they didn’t want to risk it. And the second thing that was in line was Lamont Peterson. But he vacated the belt, I lost my ranking because of inactivity, and then the signing came along. Once all of these things happened, me and my manager decided that signing with Evander and being back in the ring was the most important thing. Now it’s about getting a W and getting back in the world rankings. We got a plan and that is what’s being done right now, putting our plan in motion.
PC: What do you think of the landscape of the welterweight division?
CVH: The welterweight division is so exciting. They have a lot of superstars there. You got Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman, who has been off. Actually, it’s been a very quiet year for the welterweight division. Errol Spence and Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia all only fought once this year. But the division is so spread out and so exciting; Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, and you still got Kell Brook out there. Even though I don’t know what’s happening with him, he’s a good fighter. It’s just exciting and I honestly believe that I belong there. I believe that I have everything to be in that mix. I have already faced the guy that people are afraid to face and are scared of and the most dangerous guy and that’s Errol Spence. I have faced him. I know what he’s about. He didn’t knock me out. Yes, he did beat me up, but I’ve faced the danger dog. I don’t have any fear. And I believe and I know that I can go with these boys.
PC: When you faced Errol Spence, you had gone deeper in a fight with him than anyone else; 8 rounds. Being that you’ve been in there with him, do you feel he is the top dog at welterweight or do you lean towards someone else?
CVH: I think Errol Spence is the truth. I think he is the boy now. I think he’s just gone from strength to strength. And you know what is exciting to me and what motivates me as well? I went to where I went against Errol Spence, even though I had all of these things and I was bending at that very moment. I know that I’m a better guy than that and that excites me. Errol Spence is definitely, in my opinion, the top dog. He is the guy in my opinion.
PC: When can we expect to see you back in the ring again?
CVH: I am speaking with my manager very soon. I’m expecting to be back in the ring by the end of November or the first week of December. I am expecting a comeback fight. As I was speaking with Evander and his team, next year is going to be a big year for us. 2018 we will fight for some regional title, hopefully by February, and that will put us in the top 10. And after that, be in a title eliminator, but the moment I get news on my next fight, I will reach out to you, brother, and I will share it with you.
PC: Thank you for your time and I can’t wait to see you back in there.
CVH: I appreciate that. I just want to reach out to you and say thank you for giving me this opportunity and this platform and there are many more to come from me and you.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrFighthype ]