Kevin Lerena is hard at work ahead of his WBC Interim bridgerweight world title against Senad Gashi at Emperors Palace on November 25.
Lerena heads the six-fight “Double Down at the Palace” bill that will bring the curtain down on another successful local year for Golden Gloves.
He continues to be the most visible of South Africa’s fighters, combining charisma with clout to fortify his reckoning in the new weight division.
The interim nature of the bout is on account of champion Lukasz Rozanski opting to face Badou Jack later this year in Saudi Arabia. Rozanski had been due to face his mandatory challenger (Lerena), but negotiated a step-aside to allow him to face Jack, with the agreement that Lerena will then face the winner.
It’s a fairly typical move in international boxing, but Lerena won’t be resting on his laurels.
In Gashi, he fights a capable, colourful opponent who will do whatever it takes to succeed. The so- called “Gachine Gun” was born in Albania, raised in Russia and now lives in Germany.
Like Lerena, he is a southpaw, but of the heavy-handed variety: 26 of his 27 wins have come inside the distance, suggesting a man who doesn’t enjoy overtime.
Although he has been in with heavyweight spoilers Derek Chisora and Carlos Takam, he is better-known for his 2018 showdown against Tom Schwarz. He head-butted the German in the sixth round, leading to Schwarz collapsing as if he had been shot. Gashi was disqualified, but it was Schwarz who was vilified for his ham acting.
Away from his training, Gashi runs a popular YouTube channel (Ringfluencer) in which he travels to gyms worldwide to check out their coaches, techniques, and training, trying to distil what makes them special. Don’t, however, expect him to make a visit to Lerena’s gym to see how they do it.
On the undercard, exciting Shervontaigh Koopman will be back in the Emperors Palace ring less than three months since his sensational showing against Brandon Thysse.
The junior-middleweight will be up against battle-hardened Christiano Ndombassy, who seldom takes a step backward and should give him all he can handle in their eight-rounder.
Having begun to turn heads, Kaine Fourie will face a severe gut check when he battles Lusanda Komanisi in a lightweight eight-rounder. It’s a calculated gamble for Fourie’s team given that Komanisi is a veteran of 34 fights, but such is their belief in the youngster that they are comfortable matching him tough.
Three other bouts fill out the card: Darrin Rossouw v Athenkosi Plaatjies (junior-middleweight, six rounds); Michael Head v Bonginkosi Nhlapo (light-heavyweight, four rounds); Carl van Blerk v Justin Mostert. (featherweight, four rounds).