I am who He says I am…

Being a girly girl, I have never been an avid viewer (or any type of viewer) of boxing. I never understood who would make a sport out of two people hitting each other? And so God, and His “never ceases to amaze me” sense of humour led my path to cross that of Chris van Heerden’s, and along the way I learnt a lot more about boxing and God (who knew).

Christopher van Heerden is a current IBF International Champion and former IBO World Champion, who has had 28 pro-fights, with 25 of them being wins, two losses and one draw.

And that is about as knowledgeable as I will sound about boxing, because, besides the general knowledge that everyone who can read News24 has, I know very little. I am a sucker for a good old Sylvester Stallone boxing movie though, for one main reason – the mental aspect behind boxing that is highlighted in the movies. This led curious me to pick Chris’s brain and here is what I learnt:

1. Set Aside Your Preconceived Ideas

Many people are under the impression that boxing is about who can throw the biggest punch, but Chris shared with me that boxing is like a chess match or like poker: you have two to three rounds to figure out your opponent, see  what he has to bring to the table and identify his weaknesses. The remaining rounds are about making him pay for his weaknesses. In other words ,you have six minutes to figure someone out, who is figuring you out at the same time, all while concentrating on what is happening at that exact moment (and they say men can’t multitask).

In faith, like in boxing, we have an enemy who knows us as much as we allow him to. The devil knows your weaknesses and your fears, but just in the same way, you know his greatest fear: the light. Every single day we get into the ring with an enemy trying to kill, steal and destroy, yet we have something our opponent does not have and we bring something to the table that makes him cower in fear: the way, the truth and the life.

2. If it’s good for your soul, it’s good for you

Chris isn’t ignorant about the risk that he takes by committing himself to boxing, but he describes it as his happy place. “The adrenalin, the rush and the pride that comes with pushing yourself to the limit is worth it all.” I asked Chris, as a mother, what I should do if my son ever comes to me and says he wants to become a boxer and his answer was that boxing can change your life, it can provide you with a purpose and a foundation for so many great things. Chris assured me that he does not feel anything when he is in the ring – every blow, every challenge pales in comparison to the satisfaction of living out your purpose.

When there is someone close to you who is happy doing what they do, who becomes a better person as a result, and thereby lives out their purpose: support them and realise that God’s purpose is greater than our limited vision. Which brings me to the next lesson…

3. God does not see what it is about, but rather what it can become

Chris van Heerden did not aspire to become a boxer, instead, his dad (Danie van Heerden) who was also a boxer, saw in Chris what no one else saw, not even Chris himself. Chris never intended on becoming a boxer but, at 18 (eighteen), his father’s many years of developing Chris’s talent and investing in his son paid off.

One of the most amazing things that can happen is finding someone who sees everything you are and won’t allow you to be anything less. They see the potential in you, they see endless possibilities and through their eyes you start to see yourself in the same way.

I love thinking that this is the way God sees us. God does not merely see who we are, but who we can be and develops our character through each situation so that we may become all He has intended us to be.

4. If your faith is all you have, you have more than enough

“I found myself in a situation where I sustained an injury to my temple in the second round of a fight, by the fourth round I could only see out of one eye due to my other eye being swollen shut. I was winning the fight, round for round, but just before the twelfth round the Doctor said that it wasn’t looking good. The referee informed me that if it comes to a situation where it is getting too dangerous, he would stop the fight. I remember sitting in the corner and telling God, “God, I need you. I’m winning this fight, but I need you”, and at the start of the twelfth round, I knocked out my opponent.”

Chris confesses that he is not shy or silent about his faith. “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”. And that is what this man is all about. He seems fearless, not because of his own capabilities, but because he knows the one to whom he belongs. Chris lives out his faith, is open about his faith and lives with confidence and rooted in what and who God says he is.

5. Set goals, have a vision and don’t put love aside

Chris is turning 30 today.

When I asked him if he has achieved everything he has wanted to achieve by the age of 30 his answer was an emphatic “mostly”.

He set clear goals for himself: world champion by 24; fighting in Madison Square Garden; headlining a main event in Las Vegas; being trained by legendary Freddie Roach; sparring and competing against big names – and he has achieved all this and more.

Chris envisioned where he wants his path to lead and committed his plans to the Lord and has, as a result, achieved so much more than many of us could in a 100 lifetimes.

As for his personal life – let’s just say there is a vacancy for a Mrs van Heerden. Which leads me to Chris’s advice that he would have given his 18-year-old self: breathe and don’t act immediately; listen more and talk less; and remember to appreciate love when you have it, don’t set it aside because the most important thing at the end of the day is love.

Boxing, I have realised in my exchanges with Chris, is not just a contact sport, but rather a connection sport. You need to be connected to who you are, to what you are capable of, to your opponent, to his weaknesses and to what you stand for. It is quite clear that Chris stands in the truth that he is a child of a King, who is not moved by the world.

On this, your 30th birthday, Mr Chris van Heerden, I hope that you will hold onto the following motivational speech that reminds me of everything you stand for both in your professional career and your faith:

Who am I? I am a champion…

I will conquer what has not been conquered. Defeat will not be in my creed.

 I will believe what others have doubted.

I have trained my mind and my body will follow.

Who am I? I am a champion!

I will acknowledge the fact that my opponent does not expect me to win, but, I will never surrender.

Weakness will not be in my heart.

I will look to those who are part of me and those who have trained me, and I will draw strength from them.

Who am I? I am a champion!

I will gladly go out into the field of battle. And I will move in everything I can do. And I will reach my field of battle by any means at my disposal. I will rip the heart of my enemy, because he cannot stop me.

Who am I? I am a champion!

To my side I have comrades, comrades that have been with me through thick and thin, who have sacrificed blood, sweat and tears. Never will I let them down and I will never leave an enemy behind. Because my opponent does not know my heart.

Who am I? I am a champion!

No one will deny me, no one will define me. And no one will tell me who and what I am and can be.

Belief will change my world. It has moved continents, it has moved countries and it has put men on the moon.  And it will carry me through this battle.

Who am I? I am a champion!

Defeat, retreat: those are not in my vocabulary. I don’t understand those definitions. I don’t understand when things go wrong, I don’t understand mistakes. But I do understand this:

I understand victory and I understand never surrendering. No matter how bad things go, my heart and my mind will carry my body through limits and weakness.

Who am I? I am a champion!

Today will be that day…not tomorrow, not next week, but right now, right here. In your house and in your homes.

Who am I? I am a champion!

History will remember me.

I will not let worrying affect my cause. I will define myself, I will write my own pages and no one will tell me what I cannot be.

I will never give up – not until I have given everything I got.

Because who am I?

I am a champion.

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