Last week, a short clip from a sparring session involving UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor and South African boxer Chris van Heerden did the rounds online.
With speculation rife that a boxing match between McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. was in the works, many took this as a sign that the Irishman was in fact gearing towards a switch in combat codes. Stemming the tide of hysteria however, others simply saw it as an attempt on the part of the brash Dubliner to sharpen his stand-up skills ahead of a rematch with Nate Diaz.
It still remains unclear which, if either, of these explanations is accurate.
Regardless of his reasons for jumping into the ring with the professional welterweight at Brentwood’s Box ‘N Burn gym, it was interesting to get a glimpse of McGregor in such an environment.
In the brief snippet, “The Notorious” one acquitted himself admirably, regularly finding a home for his vaunted left-hand. That was just one round of six that the pair sparred though, according to Van Heerden, who recently spoke to Elie Seckbach about the session and the experience as a whole.
One thing that was immediately obvious from the interview, was that the 28-year-old was genuinely humbled by the opportunity to trade leather with such a big name fighter, regardless of his discipline.
“It was an opportunity I saw and an opportunity that I grabbed,” said Van Heerden. “Conor McGregor possibly the biggest name active fighter in the world right now and [I have] nothing but respect. For me to get in the ring, just a kid from South Africa, to be able to get in the ring with Conor McGregor…I saw the opportunity and I grabbed it with both hands – unbelievable”.
Like Olympic bronze medallist Tony Jeffries, who witnessed the sparring session, Van Heerden was also very complimentary of McGregor’s boxing skills and his “beautiful counter-left”. Although he admitted he really couldn’t get a sense for the MMA fighter’s oft-discussed power due to their use of 16oz gloves, he suggested that McGregor could more than hold his own in a pro ring.
“Conor McGregor knows how to let his hands go. He knows what he is doing in there. He is comfortable being in there. Don’t underestimate him – he could beat a lot of boxers out there”.
However, Van Heerden was quick to discredit McGregor’s chances against the cream of boxing’s welterweight crop and, most definitively, Floyd Mayweather.
“Mayweather wins, there is no doubt about it,” said Van Heerden. “Mayweather is the absolute best. It would be a one-sided fight”.
Whether it is likely to be competitive or not, the proposed fight would undoubtedly generate plenty of cash and for this reason “The Heat” believes the bout will go ahead.
“Everything inside of me is saying it’s going to happen,” said Van Heerden. “Eventually”.
You can watch the interview in two parts below…