Kevin Lerena (left) throws a punch at Johnny Muller during last year's WBA Pan Africa/SA cruiserweight title fight. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Four days out from his IBO championship fight at Emperors Palace, and Kevin “Two Guns” Lerena couldn’t be more focused or confident. 

The high-riding cruiserweight faces the biggest test of his pro career when he fights France-based Congolese Youri Kalenga on Saturday. 

Ranked No 5 by the WBA and No 2 by the WBO, Lerena was asked in an interview on Tuesday whether his fight against Kalenga was his toughest so far.

“In some ways yes, in some ways, no. He’s a very tough nut. Winning is the most important, and this is the first big step to bigger things. A win can open doors.”

Questioned about his tactics and style, Lerena said: “I’ve got to be smart. I’ve got to control the pace through all 12 rounds.”

When asked about his impressions of the cruiserweight Super Series, Lerena added: “It’s a pity it’s happening without me. But I’ve just got to keep winning. I’m going against convention; I reckon Oleksandr Usyk wins.

“Dimitry Kudryashov, the Russian, is the dark horse. And look out for Murat Gassiev, the IBF champion.”

A few years ago, Kalenga fought Roberto Bolonti and struggled. Lerena also fought Bolonti and found him awkward. What sort of line through the fight does that common opponent offer?

Says Lerena: “Each opponent brings something different. I also found Bolonti tough... he doesn’t engage. Bolonti got tired against Kalenga and then got KO’d. But Kalenga never had it easy.”

Lerena maintains Saturday night will be a good show for the fans. “They’ll see a very smart Kevin Lerena.”

Lerena was told that there was a sense among fans that he often fights purely at the level required to win, as was seen against Vikapita Meroro and Sergio Ramirez recently.

“In those cases, yes. When the opponent is better, I’m better, then I’m ready to go, like this weekend.”

Asked how he was going to wrap up his preparations in the next few days, Lerena said: “I do a lot of visualisation, thinking about the fight. Combinations play out in my mind. I’m just sharpening up physically, working at making the weight.”

Now that he is recently married and has become a father, Lerena added: “It’s made me more determined to be successful. I fight for my family.”

African News Agency (ANA)