Lerena ‘tuned in’ to make sweet Huni after Fury camp

Kevin Lerena, left, seen here posing with British boxer Daniel Dubois ahead of their 2022 fight, hopes to compete for a heavyweight title again soon. | EPA

Kevin Lerena, left, seen here posing with British boxer Daniel Dubois ahead of their 2022 fight, hopes to compete for a heavyweight title again soon. | EPA

Published Mar 6, 2024


Kevin Lerena can almost taste that heavyweight champion belt, and having recently sparred with Tyson Fury, he will take the next big step in Saudi Arabia on Friday night.

The 31-year-old South African southpaw will face unbeaten Australian Justis Huni in a 10-round bout at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, which will be on the undercard of the big Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou heavyweight fight.

Lerena is the current World Boxing Council interim bridgerweight champion, but has set his sights on the heavyweight division once more, having previously fought Daniel Dubois for the World Boxing Association (regular) heavyweight title in London in late 2022.

His performance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that December night gave him the belief that he can be a true heavyweight contender, after enjoying great success as a cruiserweight champion for many years.

Lerena – with an excellent record of 32-30-2 – had knocked down Dubois on three occasions, and a controversial third-round stoppage has motivated him to keep pushing for another title shot.

That journey begins against Huni (8-0), a 24-year-old orthodox boxer from Brisbane of Tongan descent.

“The only way he (Huni) can defeat me is if he proves superior on the day, in the ring,” said Under Armour athlete Lerena.

“There is no doubt in my mind that I have invested the time, effort and training required to emerge victorious. It all boils down to the 10 rounds and the two men who step into that ring, and I am ready for battle!”

Lerena, who is trained by Peter Smith, spent time in camp with Fury last month, and that experience inspired him to make the most of the opportunity to compete on the Joshua-Ngannou undercard in Saudi Arabia.

With former heavyweight champion Joshua also trying to secure another shot at the title, Lerena – whose last fight was a points-decision win over Senad Gashi in Johannesburg in November – could be in the mix for a future bout against the British star if he beats Huni.

“As I prepare for the fight, one crucial aspect of my training regimen that I’ve dedicated myself to perfecting is enhancing my mobility and explosiveness, ensuring I’m primed to seize every opportunity in the ring,” he said.

“Throughout my training camp, spanning eight intense weeks, I’ve honed my skills and pushed my limits to prepare for the upcoming challenge.

“My recent training sessions with Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia were invaluable, as two elite athletes pushed each other to new heights, undoubtedly paving the way for the upcoming fight and opening doors to greater opportunities.

“In regards to mental preparation, I am ready and tuned in. With tremendous support from other big prominent fighters who are in my corner, my mindset is solid. I am in the best condition possible and ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

Kevin Lerena says sparring with Tyson Fury recently has prepared him well for Friday’s bout in Saudi Arabia. | Supplied

“With the bout being on an international stage, the opportunity to showcase my skills at the pinnacle of competition is immensely gratifying, and I am relishing every moment, fully embracing the significance of the occasion.

“I am looking forward to the challenge (presented by Huni). He’s a tough competitor – they rate him highly – but I believe in myself. I believe in myself and my team, and what I can do.”

Lerena also hopes to count on the support of South African boxing and sports fans this weekend, having seen how MMA star Dricus du Plessis captured the imagination of Mzansi following his recent URC middleweight title triumph in Canada.

“How much time I have, I don’t know,” Lerena said.

“I don’t even think about the end of the road right now. I think about achieving all that I can in the time I’ve got, so that makes my ambition limitless, because if the sky is the limit, you can keep reaching until your time is up.

“So, I want to keep reaching until I’ve got nothing left, and if that means more championships, bigger fights, lucrative paydays, then so be it.

“But I just want to keep achieving and doing well for my legacy. It’s an individual sport – with a great team around you – and like Dricus has done, you can carry the pride of the nation.

“When I fight, I represent my country with pride, because we go through a lot of hardships here at home. It’s pretty obvious to the world, but we still rise to the occasion every time.

“I mean, look at the rugby, you look at boxing, MMA, cricket and football, we do our best.

“As a country, we are thriving in certain areas and lacking in others, so it’s up to us sportsmen to keep pushing our flag high – and hopefully that helps turn around the country.”

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