The heavyweight division is certainly the pinnacle in terms of monetary offers in the sport of boxing, and gate-crashing the division’s rankings will be high on Kevin Lerena’s “to do” list on Saturday night.
The popular 30-year-old southpaw (27-1-14 knockouts) takes the next step in his fledgling heavyweight journey when he faces the towering Pole Mariusz ‘The Viking’ Wach (44-36-8-19 kos) in a scheduled 12-rounder for the marginal IBO Inter-Continental title at Emperors Palace.
The bout headlines the Golden Gloves “Lights Out” Box and Dine card on which Tshifhiwa ‘Atomic Spider’ Munyai will also make a mandatory defence of his SA lightweight title against top contender Lusanda Komanisi in the main supporting bout.
‘Two Guns’ Lerena, as he is dubbed by his fans, announced his arrival on the heavyweight scene with a fourth-round stoppage of the giant Romanian Bogdan Dinu in March and his management team sees this latest assignment as another “roll of the dice towards bigger things.”
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Although Lerena has a fight-by-fight approach, there is no mistake it is his mission to crash into the top-10 rankings in all the major sanctioning bodies.
“A stoppage victory is impressive and would send a clear message to the heavyweight division that I’m serious and want the big fights,” Lerena told The Ring this week.
“I want to let the world know, this guy from South Africa is going to make a noise in the heavyweight division.”
Relying on speed
Lerena, who has outgrown the cruiserweight division, is less cumbersome by heavyweight standards and more often than not finds himself conceding a significant height, weight and reach advantage.
This weekend’s scheduled 12-rounder is likely to be no exception and the hard-punching 185cm-tall “leftie” will have to contend with a beanstalk opponent, Wach, who stands 202cm tall in his boxing boots.
Lerena will again have to rely on his hand speed and find the ideal balance between a head and body assault (upstairs-downstairs), which has worked well for him, even as a cruiserweight.
Former world title contender Wach, 42, has been around a couple of blocks since making his professional debut back in 2005 and was unbeaten until 2012 before dropping a unanimous decision to Wladimir Klitschko challenging for the latter’s multiple world title belts.
Although it could be misleading, he has suffered three defeats in his last four fights, including a unanimous decision to Hughie Fury in December 2020, a loss to Dillian Whyte a year prior to that and, more recently, a stoppage against the unbeaten Arslanbek Makhmudov in February.