The Outsider: Alternative knocks for Kevin Lerena

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} 12 months 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 so much to absorb, but when he’s rattled, you’ll be able to’t hear it in his voice.

“I’m simply grateful to be on this place and clearly we’ve labored actually exhausting to get right here and I simply need to capitalise and benefit from my profession,” he stated. “I’ve acquired perhaps 4, 5 years left, I’m 30 years outdated now, so the subsequent 4 or 5 years, I would like them to be the perfect that I might have imagined.”

A win over the Londoner could be a great begin as he seems to be to affix countrymen Gerrie Coetzee, Francois Botha and Corrie Sanders as heavyweight belt-holders for his nation, and he’s proud to not simply signify South Africa, however to point out that heavyweight standouts could 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,” stated Johannesburg’s Lerena. “Sadly, if it doesn’t go your means abroad, there’s nothing occurring for you, and with the robust promoters I’ve acquired in South Africa, I’ve all the time been in a position to preserve busy and have good fights in opposition to good names. For instance, take 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 gained these fights and I gained them effectively, 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 acquired the decision. And we actually acquired the decision from Frank Warren.”

Kevin Lerena fights Daniel Dubois on December 3 in England (Leigh Dawney/Queensberry Promotions)

The explanation was most likely a easy one. Dubois is getting a payday earlier than the tip of the 12 months, and as he hopes to get a crack at former cruiserweight king Usyk in 2023, combating a southpaw who’s a former cruiserweight is right. 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 instantly, they stated, ‘Would you prefer to battle Daniel Dubois for the WBA world title.’ I stated, ‘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 cope with adversity, one thing many skeptics nonetheless marvel about on the subject of Dubois after his solely loss to Joe Joyce in 2020. Lerena will not be a kind of skeptics.

“Me and Joe Joyce are very completely different fighters, to be trustworthy,” stated Lerena. “And clearly, Daniel Dubois misplaced that battle, however a person comes again from a loss so much stronger normally, so I don’t take 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 appeared in his final battle and in his final battle [against Trevor Bryan] he was successful and he appeared actually good, so I’ve acquired to beat a very good opponent who I do know could be very robust, it’s no secret, however, on the finish of the day, abilities are what win the fights and we now have 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 stated. “I’m able to expertise boxing on the highest degree and no matter comes with boxing on the highest degree. I’ve labored so exhausting 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 have to embrace it and respect 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 america, maybe he wouldn’t be adopted by all the main papers and media retailers like he’s at house. And after testing optimistic 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 facet of the highlight, and when he will get nearer to the largest 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 acquired quite a lot of nerves for this event,” Lerena admits. “It’s a giant event, however nerves are your biggest ally for those who use them for you. I’ve acquired all the things to realize. He’s acquired quite a lot of stress as a result of I’m coming for what he’s acquired. So I’ve acquired these nerves that I’m channeling in the fitting course, and 70,000 individuals might be shouting for him and jeering me, but it surely’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 awesome battle.”

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