Having been in something of a slumber in recent years, the once dormant cruiserweight division is hotting up.
And Rodney Berman intends being part of the awakening with Kevin Lerena (16-1) at the forefront.
Just this weekend, long-standing IBF champion Denis Lebedev – the consensus pick as division boss – was knocked off his perch by fellow Russian Murat Gassiev. The WBO also has a new ruler in the shape of Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk, well-known to SA fans for destroying Daniel Bruwer, Danie Venter and Johnny Muller.
In California next weekend the former Olympic champion will seek another SA scalp when he defends his title for the first time against southpaw Thabiso Mchunu.
Tony Bellew, of course, captured the WBC belt with his hammering of SA-based Junior Makabu, although his March date with heavyweight David Haye will see him stepping out of the cruiserweights.
Given the fluidity in the division, Berman believes that Lerena is perfectly poised to mount an assault on the opposition in the months to come.
He has a February fight date at Emperors Palace and the plan is to keep him busy thereafter. He’s already rated number eight by the WBO and could conceivably enter Usyk’s radar late in 2017. Provided he keeps winning, Lerena could also become a factor in the WBC, where he’s rated 13th.
“There’s growing recognition in the cruiserweights, which is very reassuring,” said Berman. “Americans are obsessed with heavyweights, but with a guy like Usyk fighting for Tom Loeffler in America, people are beginning to sit up and take notice. Kevin has the look and the style to win people over. He’s improved out of sight and has the package to be a star.”