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Kevin Lerena ‘out to make a statement’ against experienced heavyweight Mariusz Wach in Johannesburg

FILE - Kevin Lerena (r) throws a punch at Johnny Muller (l) during a fight at the Emperors Palace in Kempton Park in 2016. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

FILE - Kevin Lerena (r) throws a punch at Johnny Muller (l) during a fight at the Emperors Palace in Kempton Park in 2016. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Jun 15, 2022

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Cape Town — It’s on like Donkey Kong! South African heavyweight Kevin Lerena will take a major step forward to a heavyweight world title shot when he squares up to the experienced Mariusz Wach in Johannesburg in September.

Lerena’s promoter, Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves, announced on Wednesday that the 30-year-old southpaw will be in action at Emperors Palace on September 17.

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“Big international heavyweight fight on home soil… I am out to make a statement against the big Mariusz Wach… This is “HEAVYWEIGHT” Boxing #IamTheGiantSlayer #WarLerena” Lerena posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

The former multiple IBO cruiserweight champion made the big move to the blue-riband division fulltime this year, and produced a superb fifth-round knockout against Romanian Bogdan Dinu in late March to claim the WBA Inter-Continental heavyweight title, also at Emperors Palace.

The 35-year-old Dinu was a big unit at 1.96m, compared to Lerena’s 1.85m height, but the scales will be tipped against the South African even further when he comes up against Polish giant Wach, who is 2.02m and even older at 42.

“I made it look easy! It wasn’t easy… I think I made it look easy because I prepared. No stone left unturned — each fight presents different (challenges), and yes, sometimes in a fight, it falls into your hands a bit ‘easier’ than other fights,” Lerena told IOL Sport about the Dinu fight in a recent interview at an Under Armour event in Cape Town.

“But that’s essentially a game-plan, and I knew that is what I was going to put him away with — an uppercut straight left.

“It’s been going very good. A lot came after that fight. The victory was a big one. Now I’m just staying humble, true to the ground… and continuously work hard. I know where I want to go.

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“Somebody said to me the other day, ‘What are you doing here at the gym?’, and I said ‘What do you mean? I’m no longer a world champion. I need to work hard and become a world champion again’.

“So, the hunger, the fire is there, the desire is there to become champion again, and now it’s up to me to do it.”

Lerena (27-1, 14 KO) mentioned the September 17 fight to IOL Sport previously, but couldn’t name the opponent yet, but now that Wach (36-8, 19 KO) has been announced, it is understandable why the South African stated it was such an important bout for his heavyweight career.

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“I’ve got a big fight in September, a very big one… I cannot say who yet! It’s going to be here — it’s actually 80 percent that it’s going to be here (in South Africa), so we’re just hoping that we can finalise some numbers and get some big blue-chip brands on board to get behind the event,” Lerena said.

“But it’s 80 percent here. A big name, a massive heavyweight… A gatekeeper to the heavyweight division top 10. And when I beat him, it will send a very big message to the world champions that I’m here, and I wanna fight you.

“To be fair, he’s never been knocked out before, so he’s a real tough dude. He’s only lost to Wladimir Klitschko, on points, (Alexander) Povotkin on points, and Dillian Whyte. But, maybe I will knock him out! Let’s wait and see… A victory sends a message; a knockout sends the share price through the roof and says a world title fight written all over me.

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“To be honest, in my last fight, did I think I could knock Dinu out? Yes, I did. Do I think I can knock this next guy out? Most definitely. It will be a lot harder, though. I’m not naïve to the fact that it’s a harder fight. But hey, this is boxing, and it just takes one punch, as we saw (against Dinu).

“So, I’ve got to be defensively tight. I can’t afford to make mistakes, because one mistake will throw the fight for me. But he will make a mistake. And when he makes a mistake, he’ll pay.”

Wach’s first pro fight was in 2005, and he faced Wladimir Klitschko in November 2012 in Hamburg, Germany for the WBA, IBF, WBO and The Ring heavyweight titles, which he lost on points in a unanimous decision.

Wach went down to Povotkin in November 2015 in Kazan, Russia on a 12th-round technical knockout, and his last fight was a points loss to British boxer Hughie Fury in London in December 2020.

Lerena confirmed to IOL Sport on Wednesday that he was already busy with his training camp in Johannesburg ahead of the fight, and he has been sharing his journey on his social media accounts as well.

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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