Kevin Lerena hits his mark as Mexico’s Sergio Ramirez tries to take cover during their fight in Johannesburg on Sunday. Photo: Nick Lourens, ANA

JOHANNESBURG – Kevin Lerena has long yearned for a title shot, and now he has one as the highly-ranked cruiserweight will square off against Russian hard-man Maxim Maslov (19-1-1) for the IBO crown at Emperors Palace on August 12.

The belt recently became vacant when Marco Huck was beaten by Mairis Briedis, who failed to pay the IBO sanction fee, thus forfeiting the belt.

Conceding that it was a difficult decision to make, given Lerena’s high rating in the WBO, promoter Rodney Berman said that this would elevate him internationally in the same way that Hekkie Budler’s first run as IBO champion did.

The IBO has gained much credibility in recent years, with world-class fighters like Gennady Golovkin, Wladimir Klitschko, Manny Pacquiao and Chris Eubank jun all proudly parading IBO belts.

The IBO has also cultivated a strong relationship with SA boxing, in particular, with a number of fighters owning championship crowns.

“The reality is that this gives Kevin the opportunity to earn a champion’s purse,” said Berman. “He can also build up while defending the belt, assuming he wins against what will be a tough opponent.

“The plan, of course, is to cash in with a major payday down the line against a big name like Tony Bellew or Oleksandr Usyk.”

Maslov, ranked 10th by the IBF, has worked his way steadily up the rankings, but has fought just once outside his home country, venturing to Kazakhstan four years ago.

Interestingly, he and Lerena have a common opponent in Igor Pylypenko, who was stopped in five rounds by the Russian and went the distance with Lerena.

On Sunday, Lerena had a workmanlike win as he dominated Sergio Ramirez of Mexico to win on points at Emperors Palace.

Lerena won as he pleased, getting rounds under his belt that will prove invaluable down the track.

African News Agency (ANA)

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