Well, he wanted to play the clown, but in the end, Chris van Heerden was more like another staple of kiddie birthday parties: the piñata.
The South African fighter did plenty of mugging at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum on Friday, dropping his hands, rolling his shoulders and shimmying like an extra in an MC Hammer video back when MC Hammer videos were still a thing.
For his efforts, Van Heerden got mugged in return, brutalized by rising star Errol Spence Jr. (18-0, 15 KOs), who pounded out an eighth-round TKO victory.
“When he was clowning, I knew he was hurt,” Spence said afterward. “I knew he was trying to buy time, trying to get his confidence up a little bit. So I just kept my calm.”
Patient and poised, Spence methodically broke down Van Heerden (23-2-1, 11 KOs) with cringe-inducing body shots, a steady diet of uppercuts that snapped Van Heerden’s head back like he was a human Pez dispenser and a needle-sharp jab that set everything up.
Van Heerden’s left eye began swelling up in Round 1 thanks to said jab, and only got worse throughout the fight until it seemed as if he could barely see out of it.
It didn’t help any that he was also docked a point in Round 4 after his mouthpiece came out for the second time, although it appeared as if Spence knocked it loose as opposed to Van Heerden spitting it out.
The point deduction wouldn’t matter in the end, as Spence sent his opponent to the canvas for the first time in his career in Round 7, setting up the beginning of the end for Van Heerden.
Shortly after that knockdown, Van Heerden was forced to take a knee after a wicked shot to the liver.
By the next round, referee Allan Huggins had seen enough, stopping the fight in another impressive performance by Spence, even if he believes that he could have been better still.
“There was some small things that I felt like I did wrong that I’m going to go back to the gym and work on,” he said. “I fought a very tough fighter who threw punches back when I was landing my hardest shots, so much credit to him. I give myself a B-plus.”
Used to closing the show early, this was the first of Spence’s last five fights to go past the fifth round.
“I got some rounds in and I was feeling good,” he said. “I was still throwing a lot of punches, still active, still using defense, hands still up. It just proves once again that I can go the rounds even if the guy’s coming at me. I’m still durable.”
But is he still a prospect? Spence believes that he’s now elevated his status.
“I think I’m a contender,” he said. “I think I answered a lot of questions tonight. I’m the real deal.”
For complete coverage of Spence vs Van Heerden, visit our fight page.