The news of the impending Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor match was barely 24 hours old when a boxer released footage of him sparring in boxing with McGregor. The video, which was filmed last year, shows the boxer, Chris van Heerden, getting the better of McGregor during the session.
Van Heerden explained to ESPN on Friday why he released the video, which has since gone viral and been something of a banner to wave for those criticizing the Mayweather-McGregor fight.
“Because people are tweeting and talking and telling me that Mayweather has his hands full landing on Conor McGregor,” Van Heerden said. “I’m a professional fighter — boxer. And I’m standing up for the sport. I was just making it very clear that, don’t be ridiculous. If I could land, don’t tell me Floyd Mayweather is not gonna land.”
People telling me Mayweather will have his hands full trying to land on McGregor -STOP IT! I respect McGregor BUT i ain't Floyd and i landed pic.twitter.com/gd4dFi3XUU— Chris van Heerden (@TheHeat001) June 14, 2017
McGregor will face Mayweather in a boxing match Aug. 26 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It’ll be one of the highest drawing fights of all time for a financial perspective, but not necessarily because it’ll be a competitive bout inside the ring. Mayweather is 49-0 and one of the best boxers ever. McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion, has never boxed professionally.
The idea that McGregor will beat Mayweather being tossed around on social media — and by some pundits — was one of the reasons van Heerden released the video, he said.
“This is just a platform to prove that in boxing, a mixed martial artist taking on a boxer in the world of a boxer, you’re not gonna beat a boxer in boxing taking him on if you come from mixed martial arts,” he said.
Van Heerden, who is No. 11 in the world among welterweights in the WBA rankings, did try to make it clear that he doesn’t think McGregor has absolutely no way to win against Mayweather. He acknowledged that some of McGregor’s attributes do give him somewhat of a puncher’s chance.
“It would be ridiculous for me to say he has no opportunity, he has no chance,” Van Heerden said. “Yes, he has a slight chance of pulling it off. He’s a fighter, he’s a mixed martial artist. He can land one big punch. It can happen. This is fighting, it’s two men in the ring. The opportunity is there. He doesn’t have a zero chance of beating or causing the biggest upset in the sport. Yes, he has. In my opinion and I’m gonna stick by it and I’m not afraid to say it, there’s no way he’s beating Mayweather.
“I have nothing but respect for McGregor. There’s no bad blood. I think [he’s] phenomenal. And being a southpaw, it’s gonna work in his favor. He’s got the power to do it. I wasn’t fazed by his power, I wasn’t hurt. But again, we didn’t have 10-ounce gloves on and he’s got some small chance of causing an upset.”
Toward the end of the interview, van Heerden got to the heart of the matter, basically giving away the real reason he released the video: attention. Van Heerden called out boxer Lamont Peterson for the McGregor-Mayweather card.
“I’m not a Conor McGregor sparring partner,” Van Heerden said. “I was not part of the camp. I wasn’t paid to help Conor McGregor. I’m not a sparring partner, I’m a world-rated fighter. I helped him, because I saw the platform. I knew the Conor McGregor-Mayweaher thing was gonna pull off, because the energy, the vibes, it was gonna happen. It was gonna happen. And I took advantage.”
Indeed he did. And he ended up talking on ESPN as part of the hype around this megafight. Van Heerden said he doesn’t believe McGregor is an awful boxer, by any stretch, just not in the same realm as Mayweather.
“McGregor is a phenomenal athlete,” Van Heerden said. “He’s ruling the UFC. Absolutely, I believe he did put in training and he’s still putting in training and yes, he got better. Definitely better. I’m not saying he’s bad. I’m just laying it out as it is.”