WHEN requested about being this near combating for a WBA heavyweight title in opposition to Daniel Dubois this Saturday in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Kevin Lerena laughs.
“It’s fairly surreal, isn’t it?”
Oh, it’s.
Overlook that the WBA title up for grabs is a spurious one at greatest, with the “actual” champions among the many huge boys being Oleksandar Usyk and the person headlining this weekend’s occasion in opposition to Derek Chisora, Tyson Fury. However the surreal a part of this matchup is {that a} yr in the past, South Africa’s Lerena had simply introduced that he was leaving the cruiserweight division to compete with the massive boys. Two wins later, right here he’s.
That’s loads to absorb, but when he’s rattled, you may’t hear it in his voice.
“I’m simply grateful to be on this place and clearly we’ve labored actually onerous to get right here and I simply need to capitalise and profit from my profession,” he mentioned. “I’ve received perhaps 4, 5 years left, I’m 30 years previous now, so the subsequent 4 or 5 years, I need them to be the most effective that I may have imagined.”
A win over the Londoner can be a great begin as he appears to hitch countrymen Gerrie Coetzee, Francois Botha and Corrie Sanders as heavyweight belt-holders for his nation, and he’s proud to not simply characterize South Africa, however to point out that heavyweight standouts may be constructed at house, one thing he credit veteran promoter Rodney Berman for.
“Lots of people to migrate and journey abroad to hunt extra alternative,” mentioned Johannesburg’s Lerena. “Sadly, if it doesn’t go your approach abroad, there’s nothing taking place for you, and with the robust promoters I’ve received in South Africa, I’ve all the time been in a position to maintain busy and have good fights in opposition to good names. For instance, have a look at my final two fights: Mariusz Wach is a family title and a gatekeeper of the division, and Bogdan Dinu. Had I not had these fights, I wouldn’t have gotten this shot. Sure, I received these fights and I received them nicely, but when my promoter didn’t put these fights on I wouldn’t get this chance. So I all the time had the concept of staying at house till I received the decision. And we actually received the decision from Frank Warren.”
Kevin Lerena fights Daniel Dubois on December 3 in England (Leigh Dawney/Queensberry Promotions)
The rationale was in all probability a easy one. Dubois is getting a payday earlier than the top of the yr, and as he hopes to get a crack at former cruiserweight king Usyk in 2023, combating a southpaw who’s a former cruiserweight is good. So sure, Lerena, who’s 6-foot-1 and weighed in at 233 ¾ kilos for his final battle with Wach in September, is the underdog to the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Dubois. Not that Lerena hesitated when approached with this golden alternative.
“Once they phoned me straight, they mentioned, ‘Would you wish to battle Daniel Dubois for the WBA world title.’ I mentioned, ‘Sure, ship me the contract.’”
It’s comprehensible, whether or not Lerena really believes he can win or not. In a boxing ring with heavyweights, something can occur. However the South African was spectacular in halting Dinu in 4 rounds and almost shutting out Wach over 12. And having avenged the one loss on his 28-1 (14 KOs) document to Johnny Muller in 2014 by stopping his rival two years later, he’s proven to have the ability to take care of adversity, one thing many skeptics nonetheless marvel about with regards to Dubois after his solely loss to Joe Joyce in 2020. Lerena just isn’t a type of skeptics.
“Me and Joe Joyce are very totally different fighters, to be sincere,” mentioned Lerena. “And clearly, Daniel Dubois misplaced that battle, however a person comes again from a loss loads stronger normally, so I don’t have a look at that. My benchmark’s not the Joe Joyce battle; my benchmark is the person in entrance of me and the way he seemed in his final battle and in his final battle [against Trevor Bryan] he was successful and he seemed actually good, so I’ve received to beat a extremely good opponent who I do know may be very robust, it’s no secret, however, on the finish of the day, expertise are what win the fights and we have now a sport plan and we all know what we have to do to win.”
If Lerena does pull off the upset, his entire world will change in a single day. I ask him if he’s prepared for what occurs after December 3 if he goes house with a championship belt in his carry-on bag.
“I can inform you what I’m prepared for,” he mentioned. “I’m able to expertise boxing on the highest degree and no matter comes with boxing on the highest degree. I’ve labored so onerous my entire profession and issues are beginning to unfold now, and no matter comes afterwards is simply a part of the bundle; it’s a part of boxing. So I must embrace it and admire it.”
It’s right here the place being a giant fish in a small pond in South Africa helps him. If Lerena was competing within the UK or the USA, maybe he wouldn’t be adopted by all the main papers and media shops like he’s at house. And after testing constructive for the banned substance Clomiphene in November 2018, he was firmly within the crosshairs of protection that attacked from all angles. In the end cleared by the IBO for the VADA violation as a result of he mistakenly took the feminine fertility pill which was truly prescribed for his spouse, Gina, Lerena did learn how life is on the opposite aspect of the highlight, and when he will get nearer to the most important battle of his profession he shouldn’t be a deer in headlights, even when there are 70,000 headlights beaming down on him.
“What I can say is I’ve received numerous nerves for this event,” Lerena admits. “It’s a giant event, however nerves are your best ally for those who use them for you. I’ve received every part to realize. He’s received numerous strain as a result of I’m coming for what he’s received. So I’ve received these nerves that I’m channeling in the precise course, and 70,000 individuals will likely be shouting for him and jeering me, however it’s solely me and Daniel Dubois combating middle ring. It’s two warriors colliding. I don’t again down and I’m certain he doesn’t, so it makes for an ideal battle.”

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