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WATCH: Kevin Lerena doesn’t want an exhibition, but is ‘up’ for celebrity boxing

Published Feb 12, 2022


Cape Town — Did you know that ‘The Greatest’, Muhammad Ali, was the first boxer to engage in a celebrity match?

Ali was involved in exhibition bouts in 1979 against NFL star Lyle Alzado, and Canadian ice hockey player Dave Semenko in 1983.

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But while there have been some form of celebrity boxing matches since, these kinds of events have really taken off in recent years, highlighted by YouTube brothers Logan and Jake Paul, who have made it a multi-million dollar business.

Logan Paul’s bout with Floyd Mayweather in June last year was the standout fight in terms of the money generated, although it was an absolute farce of an exhibition event. Mayweather boasted afterwards that he alone made $100 million!

So, there’s clearly a market for these kinds of events, and even though South African Kevin Lerena is preparing for a real heavyweight fight in a few weeks’ time, he is open to getting into the ring against celebrities or stars from other sports.

The 29-year-old southpaw will be back in the ring on March 26, when he takes on Romanian Bogdan Dinu for the WBA Heavyweight International Championship title at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg.

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ALSO READ New heavyweight Kevin Lerena has got that ’Mike Tyson build’, says Rodney Berman

“There’s no one in celebrity or YouTube boxing that’s really a heavyweight. The Paul brothers are 85kg, so they’re a little bit smaller. Ja, I’m up for it,” Lerena told IOL Sport on the sidelines of Under Armour’s Mental Health Symposium held in Cape Town recently.

“But like I said, I’m not going there for an exhibition. Let’s say a top MMA fighter wants to come over to boxing and he’s got a name, and it’s going to be a mega-fight, would I fight him? Of course – he’s going to generate income.

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“If it’s boxing, I believe I’ll win. If I had to go over to MMA as a boxing champion, to generate income, that will be a different ball-game, as it’s different arts, different disciplines that you have to learn.

“It’s always tongue-in-cheek to say I will come into the cage and fight you, which is cool. But let me ask you a question? To all the people there: what’s better, getting tapped out or knocked out? Exactly! What’s the worse that the MMA guy is going to do to me? Tap me out. They’re not going to knock me out, when it comes to the hands.”

* Read our full interview with Kevin Lerena in tomorrow’s Sunday Independent, Sunday Tribune and Weekend Argus Sunday newspapers.

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