On the back of arguably his greatest career victory to date, Donna Keegan-Avery has lifted the lid on her new partnership with former IBO welterweight champion Chris Van Heerden.
Van Heerden, who is trained by WBN Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach, recently claimed the IBF International title in defeating unbeaten Cecil McCalla and is on the cusp of challenging for another world title in the coming year.
Keegan-Avery linked up with the 27 year-old following one of her regular visits to the Wild Card Gym late last year and says she is proud to represent such a consummate professional as the South African, who stands on the edge of the super-fight his career has craved for the past two years.
“I’m very excited about managing Chris. He’s a fine young man, a superior athlete, and an incredible thinker,” Keegan-Avery told World Boxing News.
“Chris strategizes everything, from press positioning to opponent devastation. He’s a true thinker and a smart man.
“For over a month, Chris came to me week after week while I was with my other boxer at the Wild Card Gym. I have Israel ‘Bumaye’ Duffus from Panama with me who’s been training with Freddie Roach. Chris saw me in the gym everyday with him and loved the attention I was giving to Israel. It’s hard to believe, but at that time Chris had no manager, no support system and he simply worked out like a pro preparing for a fight every single day.
“I watched him train, and more importantly for me, I watched him interact. You see for me these fine young men are not a stable, they are a family. They become part of my family.
“I was a trained athlete as a springboard and tower diver. I can’t imagine anyone treating me like I was part of a ‘pack’ or in a ‘stable’ of divers and swimmers. It just doesn’t compute to me, I’m not comfortable with that. I take care of everything for my family. I am truly the matriarch, from training needs to everyday clothing, social gatherings, homemade meals, you name it. As longs as I get their respect and appreciation, they get everything they need just as they would from their own mom and dad. I guess that’s why I’m known as “Mama” at the Wild Card.”
A friend to WBN, Van Heerden has on many occasions spoken of his love for his home country, but always understood that in order to make the breakthrough he requires, a switch to the US was inevitable. So off his own back, and leaving all his friends a family behind, ‘The Heat’ packed his bags for the unknown in December 2013, but was quickly rubbing shoulders with the likes of Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez in sparring sessions and never looked out of place.
This led to Roach taking a chance on the charismatic Van Heerden due to his obvious ring talents, which made Keegan-Avery’s decision to take the likeable southpaw on board and easy one.
“Each time I spoke to Freddie Roach about Chris he had only wonderful things to say about him,” Keegan-Avery highlighted.
“Since I am somewhat new to the boxing management game, I wanted to make sure I was equal to the task. After all, Chris has already been world champion.
“Finally, I asked Freddie if he thought it was a good idea if I take Chris on and he said; ‘That would be great. You would be just what he needs as he works very hard every day and he deserves a good support system. Someone who will really have his best interest at heart.’ So, I stepped in and the rest … well, proof is in the pudding.
“Chris is a successful, happy camper because he has his own ‘village’ behind him now. We are Check 6 Management, We are Team Van Heerden and we are a family.”
The new fringe IBF champ is now home in South Africa for the first time in fourteen months enjoying a well-deserved break from what has turned out to be a whirlwind year for him.
Rumours of a possible world title eliminator or challenge against current champion Kell Brook in 2015 continue to do the rounds in the media, although whomever Van Heerden faces next, they must prepare themselves for a fighter that has the determination and drive to succeed at the highest level and backs it up with the skills and focus to match.