Chris van Heerden is ready to test the free agent market, as well as any other welterweight willing to step into the ring with him.
The veteran 147-pound southpaw from Johannesburg, South Africa is on the hunt for a new promoter after having parted ways with Top Rank. The move comes after the two have worked together since Van Heerden signed with the company nearly two years ago.
“We were able to work out a release for Chris,” Peter Kahn, van Heerden’s manager informed BoxingScene.com. “It wasn’t any secret that Chris wanted a fight with [undefeated three-division and current welterweight titlist] Terence Crawford, which was why we signed with Top Rank. So, I laid out the scenario to them that if they couldn’t provide a path that leads to Terence Crawford, then we would need to part ways.
“It was an amicable separation. I was very open with Top Rank and asked to be released so we can go to PBC (Premier Boxing Champions) where every other major welterweight currently lives. Everyone is happy.”
Van Heerden–who now lives in Santa Monica, California—joined the Top Rank in November 2018, fulfilling a dream that existed as far back as his first memories of wanting to become a boxer.
“It was a dream come true for me,” van Heerden told BoxingScene.com. “I told myself when I was a little kid that one day I was going to fight for Top Rank. And it happened. They treated me really well, promotional wise. They are very professional and I really don’t have anything bad to say about them.
“I wish I could stay with them but I need to move forward with my career and I trust that Peter will keep my career moving in the right direction.”
Van Heerden joined Top Rank a few months after scoring a 10-round win over Timo Schwarzkopf in the quarterfinal round of the Jose Sulaiman World Invitational welterweight tournament in April 2018. The eight-man set was put together with the intention of creating a future challenger for the WBC welterweight title in 2019.
Unfortunately, the tournament never made it to the semifinal round, leaving participants to fend for themselves. It led to van Heerden signing with Top Rank, where he earned a pair of wins in 2019 over Mahroni Montes and Aslanbek Kozaev. Both bouts streamed live on ESPN+ from his adopted home state of California, with the win over Kozaev taking one year ago this past Monday.
Plans were in place for a clash with unbeaten Giovani Santillan (26-0, 15KOs) this past April, only for the event to get shut down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Had that show happened, Top Rank would have delivered three fights in 13 months for Chris,” notes Kahn. “And a win over Santillan would have positioned him for the world title shot we wanted. We really can’t complain about that path.
“However, because of the pandemic, Chris has now been out of the ring for a year and without a fight coming up in the future.”
In the end, business made the most sense.
“We’ve mutually agreed to part ways,” Carl Moretti, vice president of operations for Top Rank noted to BoxingScene.com.
With the move will now come the exploration of possibly fighting on PBC-aligned platforms Showtime and Fox Sports or joining the DAZN family. Both are under consideration though any welterweight in the world would have a clear preference.
“PBC just has so many welterweights,” notes van Heerden, who has won five straight since a September 2015 loss to a then-rising prospect version of current unbeaten 147-pound champ Errol Spence Jr. (26-0, 21KOs). “They have all of the big names and there are so many options.”
Given that all of the major titlists at 147 are southpaws, van Heerden believes he has quite a bit to offer for any contender waiting in line who wants to remain active.
“It’s pretty simple, if you think I’m just a tune-up and an easy fight, then fight me,” van Heerden points out. “I’ve always wanted to fight the best welterweights. Top Rank only had one—Terence Crawford and he wasn’t interested in fighting me.
“So for the guys at PBC who want to fight Errol Spence, Manny Pacquiao—they know they won’t be next. Errol has a fight (versus former two-division champ Danny Garcia on November 21) and we don’t know when Manny Pacquiao will return.
“Keith Thurman is saying he wants to fight Manny Pacquaio again. He wants to fight Spence. Well, they aren’t available. I would love to fight someone like Keith Thurman. Now that we are free agents, we can talk to PBC, talk to Eddie Hearn (Matchroom Boxing USA, DAZN’s primary content provider). I have a credible record and power to my name. Now we get to see how all of this will unfold.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox