by Francisco Salazar
Leaving your homeland to live in a new country could be overwhelming and difficult to adapt to.
Welterweight contender Chris Van Heerden left behind love, family, and stability in South Africa for a new life in the United States, specifically Southern California.
While boxing is popular in South Africa and there are a number of quality fighters in that country, Van Heerden realizes that quality sparring is found in the United States. Not to mention the exposure he would be getting in this country.
It all starts tonight as he will face former fringe contender Cosme Rivera in a scheduled eight round bout at the Florentine Gardens in Hollywood, CA.
The bout will headline a scheduled 10-bout “Hollywood Fight Night 7” card, promoted by Bash Boxing and Art of Boxing Promotions.
So far, Van Heerden has acclimated himself well in the last six weeks in Southern California. He resides a few blocks from the beach in Santa Monica and travels down the 405 Freeway to Carson to train at the Rock Gym.
He works with longtime Southern California trainer Manuel “Manny” Robles and understands the ins and outs of the boxing scene. While he misses his family, Van Heerden does not regret the decision he has made to leave his homeland.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Van Heerden told Boxingscene.com in a recent phone interview. “This is where I want to be. I made the right decision to come to America, even though I gave up everything back home to be here.”
“Back in South Africa, there are fighters who are very dedicated, but there are limited opportunities. My problem was that I had only one sparring partner. Here in California, you get world-class sparring with multiple fighters at any time. It’s unbelievable.”
While Van Heerden has passed his free time attending recent fight cards in person or walking on the nearby beaches, he does think about those close to him. While his family and friends back home also miss having Van Heerden around, they encouraged him to follow his dreams.
“I have massive support back home where my family was happy for me. It’s something in my life I had to do and it was something I had to let go in South Africa, choosing my career.”
A win over Rivera does set up interesting and potential intriguing fights for 2014. A possible fight may occur in April, but that all depends on what his handlers decide and the best offers he gets.
Believing he has the pedigree and strength to give any welterweight their run for their money, Van Heerden is eyeing potential opponents to fight.
“I see a lot of potential opponents out there. I know I could give fighters like Adrien Broner and Paul Malignaggi problems. I come forwards aggressively and I give the fans what they want. Just in the time I’ve been here sparring with world class sparring, I have seen a lot of improvement.”
“I watch my weight in between fights. I’m always in the gym. I’m never overweight. I’m a welterweight and people ask me if I’m around 160 pounds when I’m not training for a fight and I say I walk around at 148 pounds.”
Van Heerden may or not get a big fight in 2014, but he believes he is well on his way to becoming a legitimate contender at 147 pounds.
He has adapted well to the fight game in the United States and wants to make a big statement tonight against Rivera, who has faced a who’s who of legitimate world title holders, contenders, and prospects.
Then again, Van Heerden is all in, willing to make the sacrifice of leaving his family to realize his dreams. He is living the American dream and will not quit until that dream becomes a reality.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Knockout Nation, and RingTV. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing