Former IBO world heavyweight champion Kevin “Two Guns” Lerena will finally step onto the heavyweight ladder for the first time at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.
After being out of action for the past 15 months due to a hand injury and Covid restrictions, the popular 29-year-old southpaw headlines the box-and-dine Golden Gloves “Heavyweight Mania” card. , facing 35-year-old Romanian Bogdan Dinu for the vacant WBA Intercontinental heavyweight title.
After stepping between the ropes for the last time in what was pretty much a tough fight against American Kevin Ferguson in December 2020, Lerena says the extended layoff just made him “even hungrier.”
The South African (26-1-13), however, will answer the opening bell on Saturday, giving a significant advantage in height, weight and reach to the lanky Dinu (20-3-16 ko’s), who is 1.98 meters tall and has a career high knockout rate, suggesting he has a powerful punch.
True to her confident demeanor, there was a typical fight talk from Lerena this week, in the lead up to the contest.
“I’m not fazed that I have to fight bigger, stronger men. The mountain is high and I am ready to climb it,” said Lerena.
“However, you cannot compare apples and pears. Heavyweight is very different. Punches come from different angles and you have to learn how to neutralize power with speed and ring IQ.
There’s little, if any, reason to question his technical abilities and strong skills, but one thing that makes the home fighter feel much more relaxed is that he hasn’t had to face a battle with The shells.
“It would be doing me an injustice to try to stay at the cruiserweight level. At one point I was pulling up to 14 kilograms just to hit the cruiser weight limit. Now the weight I wake up to is the weight I will fight against,” Lerena said.
The heavyweight division is the pinnacle in terms of monetary offers in the sport and Lerena makes no secret of the fact that this fight is her first ‘throw of the dice’ towards bigger things, and crashing into the prestigious ratings of the top 10 WBA and IBF is very much on his radar.
But right now he can’t really look much beyond the task at hand on Saturday night.
In the mainline bout, Juan “Rhino” Roux (6-0) puts his SA heavyweight title on the line against Joshua Pretorius (7-4-0) with the vacant African Boxing Union title belt also thrown into the mix.
Double titles will also be up for grabs when Shervantaigh Koopman (9-0) defends his national middleweight and IBF Africa middleweight titles against Jami Webb (6-1-0).