Chris Van Heerden of Johannesburg, South Africa was still sporting an eyelid flush with purple bruising when Nestor Gibbs of thaboxingvoice.com interviewed him recently. He was fresh from a ten-round split decision victory over Cecil McCalla (now 20-1, 7 KOs) at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City, winning the vacant IBF international welterweight title in the process.
That win will have elevated Van Heerden in the IBF’s rankings but he still sits outside the top ten, whose top spot is occupied by the next mandatory challenger for Kell Brook’s title in Jojo Dan (34-2, 18 KOs). Van Heerden responded positively when asked if he had his eye on Brook for a possible future meeting with the Sheffield fighter.
“Absolutely. You know what, I’ve got the IBF international. This should put me in the top ten/top fifteen. I will watch it with angst and that’s what every fighter’s dream is, to get the world title shot. So that’s the dream, to fight Kell Brook and make my dreams become reality.”
Furthermore, he said he would be willing to travel to the UK and face Brook in his own backyard if that is what will be required of him.
“He’s the champion. I know what it means to be a champion. He’s the champion. If it means I gotta travel then you know what, at the end of the day I sit down with my manager, I sit down with my trainer and I’m willing to travel. You know what it is. He’s the champion, and I respect him.”
Kell Brook won the title himself having dethroned Shawn Porter in the United States so he is likely to opt for a few defenses at home now that he has the strap, so Van Heerden is showing a practical understanding of where his route to the title is likely to take him if Brook is still champion by the time he gets his shot.
He also shows a pragmatism when assessing both his own ability and marketability at this point in his career. He understands he is not yet ready for a crack at one of the best in the division. This process takes time, but he doubts he will freeze under the bright lights once he arrives underneath them.
“I won’t jump on him right away. Maybe one or two defenses and get my name stuck out there and then perfect my mistakes, and you know what, I know I’m pretty tough, so I know I can take a shot. The thing is, just the fact to fight him, I will definitely go in there positive and do what I have to do to try and win, and that’s my goal.”
There are no bells and whistles about this guy which makes a welcome change from the often garish comments of some contenders who call out champions in their weight class. He had nothing negative to say about Brook whom he obviously views as a credible champion. However, there are no guarantees that Brook will still be the title-holder if Van Heerden makes his ascent to the top-spot. Brook was the victim of a machete attack that occurred while he was celebrating his long-awaited title winning victory on the Spanish island of Lanzarote. The blade left a horrific scar that runs the entire length of his thigh and there is no telling how the incident has affected him, so who knows if he will even be the same fighter when he comes back. The sharks are already circling.