By Francisco Salazar
Over a span of many years, welterweight Chris Van Heerden became a big fish in the small pond that is his native South Africa.
While there are a number of fighters who continue to dominate small landscapes in their countries, Van Heerden decided he needed to make a move to taken more seriously by the boxing world.
Van Heerden is proud of being born and raised in South Africa. It is why the decision leave his homeland and migrate to Southern California was a difficult one, but one that was necessary to continue improving as a fighter and to get his name out there.
Van Heerden will continue the climb toward bigger purses and a world title opportunity when he takes on former fringe contender Ray Nahr tonight in a 10 round bout at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, CA.
The bout will be part of the inaugural card promoted by King Sports Worldwide.
Since migrating to Southern California, Van Heerden (20-1-1, 11 KOs) has settled in nicely, training at the Rock Gym in nearby Carson. He also fought for the first time on American soil in his last bout on February 6th, stopping Cosme Rivera after the fourth round in Hollywood, CA.
He may receive a significant test when he faces Nahr, who has lost three of his last four bouts after building a 25-1 record. He is confident though on his ability to come out victorious over Nahr.
"I know Ray is lanky and fights upright and he's a strong puncher," Van Heerden told Boxingscene.com after an open media workout on Monday afternoon. "I'm expecting a good fight. I believe I'm the quicker fighter and can make my jab work. The question is will he be able to handle what I can bring. I'm not an easy fighter to face."
Van Heerden is trained by longtime Southern California trainer Manuel Robles. Aside from the work he has done with Robles, Van Heerden has also received very good sparring while training in Carson.
While there is still work to be done for Van Heerden to become a better all-around fighter, he has come to the conclusion that he is a more effective boxer, where knockouts will come naturally.
"I've learned to not brawl so much," said Van Heerden, who has won his last six bouts in a row. "I've learned to not be so over eager. Boxing and balance are important and you're going to see a more-improved version of doing those things. I've become more the boxer."
"I've sparred withe likes of Terrell Gausha, Gilberto Ramirez, and (Olympian) Jose Ramirez. I'm working with someone (Robles) who gets me and I've had a good connection with. If I've improved this much as a fighter in almost four months, I'm excited to see the results a year from now."
Van Heerden is tall for a welterweight, making some wonder whether he will make a move up to 154 pounds.
Because he is disciplined to always be in the gym and watches what he eats, Van Heerden claims he never weighs more than 150 pounds in between fights. He wants to see what he can accomplish at 147 pounds and wants to face some of the big names in the sport.
"I'm very comfortable at 147 pounds. Maybe there's a move up to 154 pounds, but I want to fight the best names at welterweight. I'd like to fight anyone at 147 pounds, but I feel like I need another two to three fights in a six to 12 month span."
Van Heerden, who goes by the nickname of "Heat," so far has talked the talk. Waking the walk remains to be seen, considering the welterweight division is very deep.
Migrating to the United States to pursue his dream of being a world champion is the first step. Van Heerden has benefited from the training, sparring, and possibly being exposed to the managers and promoters that could come calling for him.
While he is humble of his attributes and accomplishments, he is confident of what the future holds. A victory over Nahr will be a significant step forward.
"He (Nahr) will respect me afterwards. The Heat's ready."
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, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxingTags: Ray Narh , Chris Van Heerden