Kevin Lerena (left) throws a punch at Johnny Muller during last year's WBA Pan Africa/SA Cruiserweight Championship bout. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG – South African cruiserweight Kevin Lerena has lined up impressively big-hitting sparring partners to aid his preparation for his International Boxing Organisation (IBO) title fight against Max Maslov at Emperors Palace near Johannesburg on August 12.

Lerena is hoping his friendship with a pair of elite-level overseas fighters will help – by sparring with him, to prepare him for his first attempt at a major belt.

The first is Dmitry Kudryashov, who ranks as the most destructive puncher in the cruiserweight division, with 21 knock-outs (KOs) in 21 wins. He is known as “The Russian Hammer”, counting Zack Mwekassa among his eight first-round victims. The other, Michael Hunter, is a former US amateur heavyweight champion, who recently went the distance with Oleksandr Usyk.

Speaking just moments after a 19km training run on Monday, Lerena explained: “No orthodox sparring for me. Kudryashov has big, heavy hands and will give good work. “I went to Russia last year and worked out with him. He’s a super-strong guy. We became friends, so I’m reaching out to him.

“I met Michael when I visited Floyd Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas a few months ago. He’s a nice guy and a terrific boxer, so the mix in styles could be helpful. He did well enough against Usyk and would offer high quality sparring.”

Hunter is the son of colourful former heavyweight contender Mike “The Bounty” Hunter, who once fought Fransie Botha, among a host of other big names in the 1990s.

Lerena is hopeful to use either one of the two – or both – and is working out an arrangement with Golden Gloves to ensure he receives optimal training.

“I’ve got to give Kevin credit,” said veteran promoter, Rodney Berman, of Golden Gloves. “One of the problems in this division is that the East Europeans all have around 300 amateur fights and no shortage of sparring.

"Here, the guys have to train with each other, so there isn’t that freshness or pressure. Kevin’s leaving no stone unturned.”

Lerena is clearly psyching himself up for his first opportunity in a major title bout: “I’m planning to box this guy’s ears off. It’s my big chance; I can’t blow it.”

African News Agency