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Kevin ’Two Guns’ Lerena ready to roll with the ’big boys’ as he moves up weight divisions

IBO Cruiserweight world champion Kevin Lerena. Picture by David Ritchie.

IBO Cruiserweight world champion Kevin Lerena. Picture by David Ritchie.

Published Dec 4, 2021

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Johannesburg - Moving up weight divisions can be a daunting prospect for any fighter.

Kevin “Two Guns” Lerena, however, shows little fear.

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Shortly after announcing his bold move to the heavyweight division, the 29-year-old Johannesburg-born boxer wasted little time in signalling his intention to take on the very best in the division.

“I’m just a fella from South Africa, who’s going to break into the heavyweight top 10 and chase the gold. I am doing what others said I couldn’t,” Lerena said emphatically.

His bold and brave approach is hardly surprising. Lerena has always stood tall in the face of any challenge thrown in front of him. It’s what has made him such a successful boxer in his career, having vacated the cruiserweight division as undisputed champion of the world.

He held the IBO cruiserweight title since 2017 and has been hard at work in the gym preparing for his new challenge, having recently recovered from a broken right hand.

He is expected to make his debut in the heavyweight division in February next year, however his opponent is unknown.

IBO Cruiserweight world champion Kevin Lerena. Picture by Itumeleng English.

Lerena is determined to take on a big name.

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“We know we are fighting in February. Who and where is what we are finalising. We want the big boys.”

He hopes to follow in the footsteps of successful South African heavyweight boxers such as Gerrie Coetzee, Francois Botha and Corrie Sanders, who are all world champions.

Coetzee won the WBA belt in 1983 with a 10th round knockout of Michael Dokes. Botha outpointed Axel Schultz over 12 rounds for the IBF belt in 1995, and Sanders – who previously held the WBU belt – added the WBO strap in his collection with a second-round stoppage of defending champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2003.

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South Africa will now pin its hopes on Lerena for good representation in the heavyweight division where Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk – a former undisputed cruiserweight champion – rules the roost as the WBA Super, IBF, WBO and IBO champion, while Englishman Tyson Fury holds the WBC belt.

The fighter says while he is looking forward to his move into the heavyweight division, he is still open to fighting in the cruiserweight division should a big fight arrive.

“I’m excited, however if a massive cruiserweight fight gets sprung upon us I will still take it. The decision has not yet been set in stone, so I am able to go between the two divisions, so the decision to move to heavyweight was relatively easy as long as I stay open to going up and down.”

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While Lerena is regarded as one of the world’s best boxers, he acknowledges that he will need to prove himself in the heavyweight division .

“I have to prove that I can become a great heavyweight too. You face bigger men and the pace of the fight changes, so essentially that’s the only difference, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Lerena, who trains under Peter Smith, says he is also not too bothered by his smaller stature compared to other behemoths in the divisions, such as Tyson Fury and Joshua, who stand 2.06m and 1.98m in their socks.

The boxer, in comparison, tops out at a mere 1.85m.

“In perspective, I’m only six foot one and 102kgs , AJ is six foot six and 110 kilos , it’s a difference, but we are both men inside there. Size means nothing if you don’t know how to use it.

“Fighting a smaller cagey fighter presents different challenges. As we saw, Joshua just lost to a former cruiserweight champion.”

Kevin Lerena takes a breather during a press conference in 2016. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Asked which heavyweight boxer he would love to face one day, Lerena said it would have to be Joshua.

“AJ is the most beatable of those names, however he’s still an extremely hard fight and he’s a superstar in the boxing world.”

He has also had his say on who he thinks is the best heavyweight boxer in the world currently.

“Tyson Fury is ruling at the moment. He’s a great boxer and his mental game is solid.”

Asked whether he can become the best heavyweight boxer in the world one day, Lerena replied: “I wouldn’t blow my own trumpet, I just want to create a great legacy for South African fighters to follow. Where that takes me, who knows …”

The Saturday Star

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