Former IBO cruiserweight champion Kevin “Two Guns” Lerena has stepped up in class in the lucrative money-spinning heavyweight division quicker than even he may have anticipated.
In one of his biggest challenges — and paydays — to date, in a career spanning 11 years, the popular 30-year-old South African challenges the big-hitting Briton Daniel Dubois (18-1-17 knockouts) for the latter’s WBA regular title at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Saturday night.
The fight is the main supporting bout to the WBC heavyweight world title shootout between champion Tyson Fury and Derek Chisora, co-promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions and Bob Arum’s Top Rank.
While nobody will ever begrudge Lerena his big moment, the affable southpaw (28-1-14 knockouts), trained by Peter Smith at the Smith’s Sniper Boxing Academy and armed with his usual truckload of self-confidence, admits that it all feels “pretty surreal” to him.
“I really sometimes need to just pinch myself, but it’s important that I need to just stay in the moment,” said Lerena, who steps into a cauldron of hostility in front of 70,000 fans in the British capital.
“To be honest, we didn’t call him (Dubois) out. We were offered the fight. I said ‘yes’ immediately. There was a delay from their side because they were obviously very wary of the danger of taking on a southpaw,” Lerena explained.
“I’m not saying he’s scared of me, but I don’t think it was the fight the Dubois camp wanted. So I created some hype via social media and it got out there.”
Battling the scales at cruiserweight (91kgs) Lerena took the decision last year to move up to heavyweight, where he stopped the towering Romanian Bogdan Dinu in four rounds and gained a unanimous verdict over the imposing Pole Mariusz Wach.
Dubois has a very high knockout ratio, which indicates he is a big puncher. But Lerena, has proven his ability to negate that threat before.
At 6ft1 and 102kgs, supremely conditioned Lerena is significantly smaller than most heavyweights, but as he succinctly puts it, that’s where he gets his “pop, sting and speed”. “We are bringing our own style to this fight and it’s going to be nothing he has seen before.”
Lerena is elusive and adaptable and finds the ideal balance between a head and body assault. If he fights Dubois head-on, he may have a tough night, but if Lerena stays out of trouble and takes the fight into the later rounds, Dubois may find Lerena’s speed, stamina and agility hard to contend with.
“If you want to be the best, and you want to reach the pinnacle of boxing and mix it with the super champions, you have to beat everyone they put in front of you. So I have always wanted to test myself.”