Golden Gloves has attended numerous conventions over the years. This week’s, the World Boxing Council’s 55th, ranks among the most important.
Indeed, promoter Rodney Berman travels to Azerbaijan tomorrow with a to-do list that unashamedly focuses on his most high-profile fighters.
Chief among them is Kevin Lerena, who is ranked number five by the WBC and holds the IBO belt at cruiserweight. With so much action in the division due to the Super Series – WBC Silver champion Dmitry Kudryashov and Marco Huck have already been eliminated – Lerena is handily placed.
The mid-term goal is to see him move to the mandatory position, but for now Golden Gloves’ plan is to take him along strategically. He won’t be rushed, but equally his position in the top five must be preserved, if not improved.
Berman will also be making a strong case for unbeaten SA welterweight champion Thulani Mbenge, who is inexplicably unranked in the top 40.
The WBC International title happens to be vacant and although it might be a long shot, Berman will try and convince the board of governors to give the Mbenge-Ali Funeka bout the WBC International stamp. Whether he is successful or not is probably less important, though, than ensuring Mbenge at least receives an approving nod from the WBC.
Berman will also stake a claim for Hekkie Budler, unranked because he just fought for the IBF belt. Given that Berman is furious with the IBF after Budler was railroaded in the Philippines, he is unlikely to work with that organisation again in a hurry.
“I’m confident that his ‘loss’ won’t be held against him given the general unhappiness with the result,” said Berman. “Ultimately, a WBC title shot is the end game for Hekkie. It’s what I’ll be fighting hard for.”
Berman also intends discussing the status of WBC International minimumweight champion DeeJay Kriel’s next defence, specifically whether it will be a title or non-title event.
Finally, Berman wants to advance the cause of SA junior-lightweight champion Phila Mpontshana, who looked outstanding in his recent title defence against Lucky Monyebane and is clearly a fighter on the rise.