EXCLUSIVE: Promoter Rodney Berman talks Chris Van Heerden’s US move, new 147 star Thulani Mbenge

Chris Van Heerden

Rodney Berman favors working with current powerhouse champion Thulani Mbenge over former charge Chris Van Heerden and says the latter lacks the power needed to make it to the big leagues.

Van Heerden is one of many names that appear in the highly competitive welterweight division. Gaining a gatekeeper persona, he’s had three wins on the trot since his knockout defeat by pound-for-pound star Errol Spence Jr.

In an exclusive interview, ex-promoter Rodney Berman was asked if they will be working together again in the future.

“I respect Chris Van Heerden greatly for what he’s done. It’s tough to come from South Africa and make it in America,” Berman exclusively told World Boxing News.

“I don’t think he’s quite made it as he’s never been in a big-time fight, but he’s always 100% fit and always gives the best.

“Having said that, he’s been in America 3-4 years, has fought three times, and hasn’t made any great impressions.

“Apparently, he’s in good hands (with manager Peter Kahn), but there’s no question of us joining up because I’ve got so many fighters, and candidly I don’t think he’d consider coming back to South Africa and fighting.”

Berman currently has his plans set for another welterweight under his wing making waves in South Africa.

“I have a guy Thulani Mbenge. He’s the IBO champion, he’s a young guy at either 23/24, and he’s unbeaten. We have great hopes for him in the welterweight division, which is a viable division now,” he explained.

“To be candid, and without knocking Van Heerden, I can tell you now if I offered him the fight with Thulani Mbenge for the IBO title, he would turn it down.”

The IBO champion is vastly growing out of the prospect stage and into the big leagues, having already picked up the welterweight crown currently in his possession.

“Mbenge is an extraordinary fighter. He has 14 wins and 11 by knockout, and he’s a real prospect. I’m confident within the next year. He’ll be one of the sought-after welterweights in the world.

“There’s no comparison. Van Heerden, at best, is in the twilight of his career, although he’s always super fit – he’s 31 years old.”

One of Thulani Mbenge’s best assets is the power that he has displayed so far. It shows almost the same knockouts racked up in less than half the fights compared to Van Heerden. Being a key factor for Berman.

“In my 40 years of boxing, whenever you talk of a great in another era, subconsciously, if you look back, everyone had power in their fists, they were punchers, and they could finish fights.

“Very seldom would you ever mention a fighter that his career always went the distance? This is what the fans come to see. They want to see something explosive.”

“Unfortunately, what Chris Van Heerden lacks is power. In that welterweight division, you will need the power to fight the talent that is there, at the very high level.

“What he’s done is very commendable to go. To try and make it at the highest level. That’s great.”

African talent has risen in number, most recently Hassan Mkakinyo scoring an upset knockout over Sam Eggington on the Khan vs. Vargas undercard. Berman states the South African talent will soon be witnessed.

He concluded: “On a general basis, we can compare, England has an abundance of talent, the sport is extreme there, the cruiserweights with what the Sauerland’s are doing there.

“Boxing is what I haven’t seen for a long time. It is thriving with Canelo and Anthony Joshua. So it is in South Africa we have an abundance of young talent coming through the ranks, which you will see in the foreseeable future.”

Chandler Waller is a staff writer for World Boxing News. Follow Chandler on Twitter @ChandlerWaller.

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