Rodney Berman always claimed that Kevin Lerena was fast.
Just how fast is reflected in the latest WBO cruiserweight rankings which have him at a career high number two for Oleksandr Usyk’s championship belt.
Lerena sky-rocketing to prominence now leaves his team with a happy dilemma. He is presumably closer than ever to a title shot, but he might be better served banking experience until down the road.
Lerena backs his skills to the hilt, but there’s no doubt that he remains a work in progress. He’s had just 18 pro fights and although some would say Usyk has had only 11, the real difference is staggering: Usyk had 350 amateur bouts (335-15), Lerena had just a handful.
The option of going for a title shot now means big financial rewards and even a credible showing, irrespective of the outcome, would endorse Lerena’s credentials.
On the other hand, and it’s a view Berman seems more comfortable with, it may not be the right decision to put him into a world title at this early stage of his career. There might be more to gain giving him more experience and opportunity for when he would be perfectly ready.
This, of course, leads to his impending fight in America. With Usyk having recently made his US debut, against Lerena’s stablemate Thabiso Mchunu ironically enough, the focus on Lerena is likely to be sharper. He is due to fight in America on April 14 and has a golden opportunity to make an incredible first impression on the US public. Anything other than a glory show by SA’s newest star would be a disappointment and might even hamper his progress internationally.
“There’s so much riding on this,” said Berman yesterday. “Don’t forget, he’s also in the top 10- of the IBF and WBC so there’s a reasonable expectation that he’s a top talent. Let’s see him win in America and then we can talk about stalking down Usyk or one of the other title-holders.
“Kevin has walked damn hard to get to this point. Everyone in boxing knows him and the cruiserweights are beginning to sit up and take note. It’s definitely a case of him controlling his destiny.”