“It’s the biggest opportunity I’ve had, but in my mind, it’s just another fight,” says undefeated welterweight Cecil McCalla (20-0, 7 KOs).
The easy-going McCalla, a Randallstown, Maryland, native, will face South African southpaw Chris “The Heat” van Heerden (21-1-1, 11 KOs) for the IBF International Welterweight Championship this Friday, January 9, at Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City and live on FOX Sports 1 (10PM ET/7PM PT).
McCalla vs. van Heerden will serve as the main supporting bout to fan favorite New Yorker Tommy Rainone (22-5-1, 4 KOs) taking on unbeaten Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (24-0, 13 KOs) on music superstar Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports debut boxing card, entitled “Throne Boxing.”
If McCalla is feeling the pressure before the biggest fight of his boxing career, he’s hiding it well. But the 29-year-old has already proven himself a clutch player. He was scheduled to fight van Heerden last July until van Heerden pulled out with an injury two weeks before the fight. Despite having spent his entire training camp preparing for a southpaw, McCalla agreed to fight orthodox fighter Oscar Godoy (then 13-2) on short notice and won a dominant unanimous decision.
“I feel like that opponent (Godoy) is a little tougher than this guy van Heerden,” continued the confident McCalla. “He (van Heerden) is a southpaw from South Africa and a pretty rough pressure fighter, but I won’t have any problems with him. I used to spar Paul Williams before I even turned pro and he’s a lot stronger than this guy.”
If McCalla sounds supremely confident, it’s because he has a secret weapon from across the ocean on his side.
“I trained for my fight in the UK,” explained McCalla. “My manager, Camero Mercer,knew a trainer named Lee Beard, and told me I should go over there and work with him. I decided to give it a shot two summers ago and I’ve been going there to train for every fight since then. Lee knows his stuff.”
McCalla says the improvements from working with Beard, best known for his work with Ricky and Matthew Hatton, have been incredible. “I felt like I was getting caught too much before and it’s made a very big difference in working with Lee. He’s hard to please and he pays close attention to everything. I like him.”
Happy with the opportunities afforded him by his promoter, Greg Cohen of Greg Cohen Promotions, McCalla says a victory over van Heerden will put him exactly where he wasnts to be.
“Greg Cohen does a great job for me and I’m happy with where I am as far as opportunities coming my way. And I’ll start getting better fights after this victory and that will put me in the mix with the Andre Bertos and Keith Thurmans and guys like that. Hopefully I’ll be world champion sometime this year. This is my year!”