|Photo Credit: Manny "Mitts" Murillo|
Fighting under the promotional banner of his RJJ Boxing Promotions outfit, South African Chris “The Heat” Van Heerden (23-1-1, 12 KOs) looked to put himself back in the mix at welterweight, eking out a majority decision over tough Canadian Steve Claggett (23-3-1, 16 KOs) in the night’s main event.
"I knew I won this fight, 120-percent, but I knew it was close," Van Heerden commented. "We're both winners tonight because of it was so close and we entertained the crowd. Me and Claggett entertained the crowd . . . we delivered. I've been through so much and the Lord helped me get this win. I look forward to a rematch, but I want to move forward."
The first round saw each man coming out cautiously and patiently trying to find range behind their jabs -- not always an easy task in a fight pitting a southpaw and an orthodox fighter against each other.
By the midway point of the round the two would settle into a pattern that would continue for the entire duration of the fight, as the taller Van Heerden looked to use his 3-inch height advantage and box from his southpaw stance, while the shorter Claggett tried to stalk and maul his opponent.
In between rounds Van Heerden’s trainer, Eric Brown, could be heard imploring his charge to box intelligently, move, and use angles to offset the hard-charging Claggett’s offense.
In the second round, Van Heerden was able to do just that, as he carried the round by boxing successfully and placing his punches more accurately.
In the third round, he showed more of the same, while also displaying some diversity to his game in doing some good work on the inside before circling back around and again using his reach to his advantage.
In Round 4 it was Claggett who was able to go downstairs and work the taller man to the body. The native of Calgary, Alberta, was also able to find Van Heerden’s face while mixing in some nice uppercuts for good measure to take the round.
In continuing with a theme that would be ongoing throughout the fight, the fifth frame was a seesaw one in which Van Heerden boxed and countered well, both to the body and the head, but was also tagged a few times by Claggett, who was able to illicit some "ooohs and aaahs" during one sequence in particular when he noticeably knocked Van Heerden’s head back with an uppercut-hook combination. This was the first of several tough rounds to call.
The same goes for the sixth, a round in which each man seemed to slightly step off the gas pedal after what was a torrid pace to begin the fight, as they each took turns on the offensive in another tit-for-tat round.
Van Heerden came out aggressively to open the seventh, flurrying effectively, then circling away from danger and boxing off of his back foot, much to the pleasure of his cornerman.
The next round was more of the same, as Claggett continued to eat jabs, straight lefts, and hooks to the body as he tried to get into range to tag his opponent.
Much to the chagrin of the Canadian’s corner, this continued in the ninth round as well, as the shorter Claggett tried to close the distance, but ate a bunch of shots in the process.
Both men showed good sportsmanship and a healthy respect for one another in embracing before the bell to begin the tenth and final round. This round was a microcosm of the entire fight, as Van Heerden circled away and boxed, and Claggett bore his way in, mauling his man with hooks to the body and overhand rights to the head once he got close enough to do damage. Despite eating some good leather on more than a few occasions, each fighter demonstrated that they possessed decent beards in standing up to the other man’s shots and never being noticeably hurt.
The official scorecards gave Van Heerden a majority decision (97-93 twice, with one judge scoring it a draw at 95 apiece) and win number 23 of his career. Many in the Canadian contingent that came out to support Claggett voiced their displeasure with the judges, expressing their belief that Van Heerden simply ran from the constant onslaught of the hard-charging Canadian contender.
In the chief support to the main event, undefeated Californian Neeco Macias (12-0, 6 KOs) shot out of his corner like a rocket at the opening bell, buried his head right in his opponent’s chest, and kept it there for the majority of the eight round fight. Fighting the whole time with a devilish grin and two braids coming down the back of his otherwise close-cropped hair, a la former 140-pound champ Kostya Tszyu, the man proudly known as “The Rooster” kept his perfect record intact by employing his all-out attacking style to perfection in garnering a unanimous 79-73 decision over Limberth Ponce (10-3, 8 KOs).
Macias’ unrelenting style certainly endeared him to the fight fans in attendance, as well as to his promoter of record, as he did his demonstrative Rooster impression and “Cock-a-doodle-doo” call in the ring after the decision was announced.
"I knew he was going to be the toughest fighter I've fought," Macias said. "I give Ponce much respect. We wanted to give fans a good show."
In the first of the two supporting bouts for the main event, Baltimore’s Malik “Iceman” Hawkins (7-0, 6 KOs) served notice to fight fans that up and coming star in waiting Gervonta Davis isn’t the only boxer out of Baltimore that we should watch closely. Hawkins was completely dominant in pummeling an outclassed Errol Sidney Jr. for 5 rounds before finally dropping and stopping him at 1:02 of the sixth round.
"We're back," Hawkins proclaimed after the bout. I'd give myself an 8 ½ this fight."
In other supporting bouts, local blue chip prospect -- and Las Vegas native -- Jason Moreno showed why Jones made sure to have him signed to his promotional outfit, looking sharp in winning a clearcut four-round unanimous decision. Moreno landed crisp counters with ease, despite having his mouthpiece knocked clear out of the ring in one memorable piece of action in the second frame when he pulled straight back with his hands down and was caught with a looping overhand right.
Also on the off-TV undercard another Las Vegas product by way of Long Beach, California, Jeremy “J-Flash” Nichols, stayed unbeaten in three pro fights, as the flashy southpaw potshotted and countered his way to a closer-than-expected unanimous decision win over a very tough and game Jason Gavino out of Tijuana.
By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com