Chris van Heerden reigned in Roc Nation’s throne boxing series debut with a split decision victory over Cecil McCalla (97-93, 96-94, 91-99). Van Heerden, originally from South Africa, is now the IBF International Welterweight Champion. The 27 year old felt he had exhausted all the competition in his home country. So, he came to America to fight and become the best, and after last night’s affair he is on his way to accomplishing that goal.
McCalla did not make weight prior to Friday night’s contest, so did not have an opportunity at winning the title. While looking like a bulked up middleweight for this 147 pound affair, the Maryland native didn’t have much of answer for van Heerden throughout the fight. The South African, who felt like McCalla “disrespected the sport” by not making weight, punished McCalla by applying effective body shot combinations and constantly putting the American on the ropes. It was clear that this approach had its intended effect, as McCalla looked completely out of gas the longer the bout wore on. While McCalla landed some shots from time to time, and even was able to open his left eye in the fourth round, van Heerden said he never felt his power.
Despite what looked to be an easy decision victory for van Heerden, the three judges saw the fight much differently. Including judge Ed Scunzio, who scored the bout for McCalla with a questionable 99-91 decision. While van Heerden felt like a few of the middle rounds were close, it’s hard to imagine many people thinking McCalla did enough inside the ring to win nine rounds. The new champion was able to consistently apply pressure, pick his spots, and land devastating shots to the body that McCalla simply didn’t have an answer for.
Van Heerden popped up on a lot of fans radars when Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach entered his corner four months ago. The welterweight division is currently stacked with names like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan, Keith Thurman, Kell Brook, Tim Bradley, and Marcos Maidana. There’s certainly plenty of tantalizing action stars that could pose fun matchups against the southpaw van Heerden. When asked if any names jumped out at him, he wasn’t quite thinking that far ahead, but did mention he thought, “Brandon Rios would be a great fight” for him.