Talented South African Chris Van Heerden is still on the lookout for a high-profile return to action after seeing another opportunity fail to materialize recently.
Van Heerden was said to be the favorite to face Amir Khan on April 21 in Liverpool, but as manager Peter Kahn confirmed to WBN last week, the former IBO welterweight champion was never on any shortlist.
On the back of revealing this information to WBN, Kahn has gone one further and explained what happened to a proposed fight between ‘The Heat’ and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao in 2017.
The pair were linked to a huge fight on South African soil as part of a planned world tour by Pacquiao, although the whole blueprint fell apart when the Filipino lost a highly controversial decision to Australian Jeff Horn in Brisbane during the summer months.
Working with the South African government and private investors to work out the finer details, Kahn had high hopes of getting the fight over the line until disaster struck on July 2nd.
“At the time – around a year ago, Chris Van Heerden was still in the top 15 in the WBA, WBO and IBF so we rolled the dice whilst Pacquiao was talking to Horn and had conversations behind the scenes for a fight in South Africa around November of 2017,” Kahn exclusively told World Boxing News.
“As Van Heerden was still top 15 in the WBO, he would be sanctioned for a massive world title fight with Pacquiao, but Horn’s upset derailed those plans.
“Since then, Chris has only dropped out of the rankings because of and the fact that nobody meaningful wants to fight him!
“We thought about potentially facing Horn instead, but after the Pacquiao fight, both Top Rank and Duco Events said they do not want Van Heerden fighting the new champion as a first title defense. Basically, they were not interested.
“I even had actor, producer, director Peter Berg on the phone with me and Dean Lonergan expressing he would personally look to use his Hollywood influence to help promote the Horn-Van Heerden title fight in support of Chris, who trains at his Wild Card West Gym in Santa Monica.
“At the time, Chris was a promotional free agent so there was nothing stopping that fight from happening. There were many reasons and excuses, but the bottom line is it would not be an easy fight for Horn and they needed to protect their interest so they can eventually serve him up to Crawford. “
Pacquiao is now being pushed towards a proposed battle with Mike Alvarado, meaning Van Heerden once again misses out, leaving Kahn and new promoter Evander Holyfield seeking the best challenge possible for the frustrated 30-year-old.
“As recently as three days ago, I was told by a top executive at Top Rank that ‘it wasn’t in the cards for Van Heerden (to fight Pacquiao),’” he explained.
“Nothing against Van Heerden, but not who they need to put in that slot for Pacquiao. I was told months ago they have a lot invested in Mike Alvarado when they were positioning him intially for Horn.
“As Freddie Roach also trained Van Heerden, I’m sure after Pacquiao’s performance against Horn, the coach gave him second thoughts about Van Heerden.
“The style Chris brings might not be what they want right now as Pacquiao is a legend and one of the best ever but it just didn’t work out.
“Regardless, Chris is still young and the attrition that is taking place in the welterweight division will naturally provide him with his opportunity soon enough.
“Van Heerden already has 28 professional fights. I understand the importance of activity but fighting for the sake of fighting while waiting is an old school mentality.
“Van Heerden lives in the gym and spars with former and current world champions. He is ready to go.
“So in the end, the time off will be a blessing for a refreshed and reinvigorated Van Heerden. We’re also very happy with the decision we made to team up with Holyfield.
Referring to not even being contacted regarding the Khan fight after Phil Lo Greco was chosen, Kahn added:
“It’s a joke to me when guys say that Van Heerden isn’t on a list (to fight Khan or anybody), He’s absolutely on a list but it’s the DO NOT FIGHT LIST!
“What they really mean to say is that they simply don’t want to fight him and it’s code for Amir Khan just does not want to fight Chris Van Heerden!
“It really is that plain and simple,” he concluded.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay